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Creating textual communities : Anglican and Methodist missionaries and print culture in British Columbia, 1858-1914 Edwards, Gail

Abstract

Throughout the second half of the long nineteenth century, from the 1850s through 1914, Anglican and Methodist missionaries in British Columbia were actively involved in the reproduction and transference of Eurocentric cultural and religious norms in their remote communities. Missionaries were charged with preaching the Word, translating the Word, and encouraging their convert communities to adopt particular norms of behaviour and ways of presenting and representing the self. They were particularly concerned with inculcating literacy and creating textual communities of worshippers who would engage directly in the Protestant practice of reading and meditating on the Scripture. At the same time, they were also responsible for reporting on their work in the mission field to a metropolitan readership in order to stimulate interest and support for the work. In this study, I first locate Anglican and Methodist missionaries within the broad frameworks of denominational theology, missiology, and ecclesiology, and within the space, time and place of British Columbia between the late 1850s and 1914. I consider the structural differences between Anglican and Methodist missionary societies, and explore the differences within each denomination that shaped missionary practices in the field. I examine the critical role of education in the formation of missionaries, and identify the ways in which their educational trajectories shaped their interaction with print culture. I then explore three different areas of the missionaries' interaction with print culture and the artefacts of print. I first look at writing practices of missionaries, and the denominational structures that encouraged particular textual relationships, considering the role of missionaries as creators of text, and the role of missionary publications in the dissemination of information about the mission field. I then examine the role of missionaries as promoters of particular forms of textuality among Native convert communities, and consider the role of missionaries in the creation and dissemination of translations into Native languages. I next turn to the consumption of print and the role of missionaries in promoting reading and textuality as a means of reordering social relations. Finally, I raise questions for further research.

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