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Protestant Emotional Practices: Scales of Proximity & Christian Missions in Comparative Perspective

28-331 | Friday, 3:30 p.m. | 213
Panel Chair: Simon Coleman

This panel offers a comparative analysis of the role of emotional practices, including rhetorics, affective economies, and bodily displays in three different early-twentieth-century Protestant missionary contexts, including settings within Germany, England, Canada, First Nations territory on the Northwest Coast, and Africa. We begin our comparison with the frame of “scales of proximity”, by which we mean varying levels of intimacy and distance in the human relationships framed and advocated by missionary practice. We ask how emotional practices in local contexts work to generate and sustain wider networks of missionary funding, allegiance, and norms of the Protestant self in relation to a variety of posited ‘others’.

Monique Scheer

Questioning Evangelical Emotions in Wilhelmine Germany

The late nineteenth century saw an influx of missionaries from Protestant “sects”, mostly from England and the United States, into the newly formed German Empire. These denominations, stemming from traditions other than the Lutheran-Calvinist brand of German Protestantism (e.g. Methodist, Baptist), did not convert massive numbers of believers, but they were a thorn in the side of the established church. In this paper, I focus on the monitoring of the emotional practices of these evangelizing groups, as between 1880 and 1910, critics devoted a great deal of attention to the displays of feeling at their assemblies. In their critiques of traveling preachers from the Holiness Movement and the activities of the Salvation Army, Lutheran observers negotiated what place to allocate to religious feelings in German Protestantism in general. Their critiques turned not only on the issue of emotional norms, but also on what conceptions of the self they underpin.

Rebekka Habermas

Global ties of religious compassion: German missionaries around 1900

Missionary work in Africa, Asia or the Americas around 1900 depended on the financial and emotional support from the home mission societies as well as from so-called “mission friends.” Beyond these groups, even women and men only loosely connected to the mission organizations gave money, clothes and little presents to the mission. Without this support, German Protestant missionaries, who exclusively relied on donations, would not have been able to establish their broad net of mission stations. But how could this support be gained, how could stable and long-lasting ties between the missionaries, the “heathens” and these supporters be built up? This paper addresses the question how emotional ties over great distances could be established between German mission supporters and the so-called heathens in West- and East Africa. On which specific religious and perhaps even Protestant forms of compassion were these global ties grounded, and how were they shaped?

Pamela Klassen

Emotional Appeals in a Settler Colony: Protestant Missionaries in early-twentieth-century British Columbia

This paper focuses on the role of emotion in Anglican missionaries’ appeals for financial support for two kinds of missions—those they called "Indian work" and "white work"—during the early phase of settler colonialism in northwestern British Columbia. As missionaries pleaded with church leaders and laypeople in Toronto and England to send them more money and more “men”, they shifted between appeals for funds for work with Indians and appeals for funds for missions to the white settlers streaming into the region along with the railway. Putting these appeals in the context of conflicts regarding Indigenous sovereignty and regarding intra-Christian competition for missions (with the Salvation Army as a persistent threat), I show how local, affectively shaped conflicts on the northwest Coast shaped the rhetoric and relative success of these missions within their broader international network.

Simon Coleman


The respondent will address the issues raised in the papers of this panel.