Maritime Missions: Religion, Ethnography and Empires in the Long Eighteenth Century

Washington, D.C.
German Historical Institute, 1607 New Hampshire Ave., NW, Washington, D.C.
Jenna M. Gibbs (Florida International University/GHI Washington) and Sünne Juterczenka (University of Göttingen/GHI Washington); German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C.
24.05.2019 - 25.05.2019
Jenna M. Gibbs (Florida International University/GHI Washington) and Sünne Juterczenka (University of Göttingen/GHI Washington)

Beginning in the early modern period, missionaries became crucial to colonial expansion, the broadening of intellectual horizons, and the globalization of Christianity. Often travelling by sea, they were among the first to cover the vast distances that the maritime empires of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries would subsequently span. Transoceanic in scope, “Maritime Missions” will explore the interconnections between the histories of religion, science and maritime empires. The workshop focuses on the ways in which the Pacific, Atlantic, East Asian and Mediterranean oceans were deeply interlinked by missionary activities from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries. It follows the lead of recent scholarship that recognizes the intertwining of scientific and religious missions, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, and situates these in the maritime spaces that were both the arena and the medium of colonial expansion.

“Maritime Missions” seeks to build on a recent upsurge in maritime history, today one of the most vibrant and multifaceted fields in historical research. Critical revisions in this field have brought the cultural historical perspective to the fore, highlighted the relevance of the maritime even to hinterland communities, engaged with postcolonial analysis of maritime empires, and embraced interdisciplinary cross-pollination. While rich studies have conceptualized oceanic regions like the Méditerranée, the Black Atlantic, or the Pacific Sea of Islands as discrete but interlinked, this conference also seeks to explore the fluidity between these regions. Specifically, we will investigate how imperial maritime exploration, transoceanic networks and global missions fostered the study of ethnography and race, which will also engage recent history of science scholarship that emphasizes globalization and encounters with and awareness of non-Western indigenous knowledge and cultures. In focusing on the emergence of ethnography out of religious as well as scientific missions in the imperial maritime world, the workshop will also contribute to the ongoing reevaluation of the role of religion in the Enlightenment, pushing back on residual resistance to bringing them under the same analytic lens.


Friday, May 24

9.00 – 9.30: Welcome and Opening Remarks
Axel Jansen (GHI Washington)
Jenna M. Gibbs (Florida International University/GHI Washington)
Sünne Juterczenka (University of Göttingen/GHI Washington)

9.45 – 11.45: Culture and Communications in Catholic Missions
Chair: Sünne Juterczenka (University of Göttingen/GHI Washington)
Renate Dürr (University of Tübingen): “Emotions in Jesuit Ethnography”
Eva M. Mehl (University of North Carolina, Wilmington): “Expanding Boundaries in the Catholic Spanish Empire: Spanish Augustinian Missionaries in China, 1680-1724”

1.45 – 3.45: Global Pietist Missions
Chair: Claudia Roesch (GHI Washington)
Markus Berger (University of Bamberg): “The Globality of Providence. A German Minister in New York City and his Views on Mission, God’s Kingdom on Earth, and the American Independence in the late 18th Century”
Jean DeBernardi (University of Alberta): “Pietism and the Globalization of Evangelical Christian Practice: The Open Brethren Movement in London, China, and Southeast Asia”

4.00 – 6.00: Slavery, Religion and Humanitarianism
Chair: Jan C. Jansen (GHI Washington)
Justine Walden (University of Toronto): “Antagonists of Empire: Slavery, Profit, and Italian Capuchins in Congo, 1641-1686”
Jake Griesel (University of Cambridge): “Paving the Way for Dutch Colonial Missions: Jacobus Elisa Johannes Capitein (c. 1717-47) and his Defence of Slavery”

Saturday, May 25
8.30 – 10.30: Theology and Ethnography
Chair: Peter H. Reill (University of California Los Angeles)
Jordan Kellman (University of Louisiana, Lafayette): “Franciscan Natural Theology and the Early 18th Century Francophone New World Encounter”
Roberto Chauca (Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, Equador, Ecuador): “Spanish Missionary Debates and the Transatlantic Configuration of Amazonian Ethnic Categories”

10.45 – 12.45: American Maritime Expansion
Chair: Jenna Gibbs (Florida International University/GHI Washington)
Sarah Crabtree (San Francisco State University): “Whaler, Traitor, Coward, Spy!: William Rotch, the Quaker Ethic & the Spirit of Capitalism”
Darin Lenz (Fresno Pacific University): “Immersed in Dependency: American Missionaries, Empires, and India in the 1830s”

1.45 – 3.45: Missions and Philanthropy
Chair: Elisabeth Engel (GHI Washington)
Ulrike Kirchberger (University of Kassel): “Footsoldiers of Globalization? The Pupils of Eleazar Wheelock’s ‘Indian Charity School’ in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World”
Manikarnika Dutta (University of Oxford): “Sailors’ Homes in the Nineteenth Century: A Global History”

3.45 – 4.00: Wrap up


Sünne Juterczenka
German Historical Institute
1607 New Hampshire Ave., NW, Washington, D.C.

Maritime Missions: Religion, Ethnography and Empires in the Long Eighteenth Century, 24.05.2019 – 25.05.2019 Washington, D.C., in: H-Soz-Kult, 30.04.2019, <>.
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