MiMoRA#2. Mission and Modernity Research Academy: Heritage, Legacy and Memory

Country: Belgium

City: Leuven

Abstr. due: 29.03.2019

Dates: 05.09.19 — 13.09.19

Organizing comittee e-mail: mimora@kuleuven.be

Organizers: KU Leuven


Over the past years, the history of missionary movements has become of interest to diverse dis­ciplines within the humanities. In response to this interdisciplinary booming (but also divergence of the field) KU Leuven re­searchers from several faculties launched MiMoRA in 2018. The Mission and Modernity Research Academy aims to bring together current research projects and expertise on missionaries and steer them towards new the­matic frontiers by providing a forum for academic debate and by creating new networks for young scholars across the globe. While the first edition of MiMoRA centered on the topic of ‘Mission and Education’, the second Re­search Academy will focus on the theme of ‘Herit­age, Legacy and Memory’ and take place from 5 to 13 September 2019. MiMoRA#2 will consist of a series of workshops, methodological sessions, seminars with keynotes and research papers, and consultations of the missionary collections of KADOC-KU Leuven and the Maurits Sabbe Library. Interested junior schol­ars – both PhD students and postdocs – are invited to participate and to submit a proposal. Thomas Coomans (KU Leuven), Idesbald Goddeeris
(KU Leuven), Karen Jacobs (University of East Anglia), Mutombo Nkulu-N’Sengha (California State University Northridge), Harald Suermann (RWTH Aachen University) and Ellen Vea Rosnes (VID Specialized University) are among the confirmed keynote speakers.


MiMoRA#2 welcomes researchers working on all types of topics within the field of Christian missions and missionaries in the modern era (1850-), both in a colonial and a postcolonial context, that are related to the thematic focus on ‘Heritage, Legacy and Memory’. We are seeking papers that address a selection of the multiple ways in which the endeavors of missionaries and missionary organizations have affected local societies and cultures, and/or how their significance is negotiated in the present. Potential topics might include (but are not limited to):

  • Religion. The imprint of Christianity (Catholic, Protestant, etc.) within local communities, and missionary approaches to and views on local religions, religious practices, rituals and narratives; processes of appropriation of Christian/Western religious ideas and practices within local communities, and the blending of Christianity with local belief systems; confrontations between competing missionaryreligions and religious denominations and their impact on local social structures; the influence of local religious cultures on individual missionaries and missionary programs and activities. 

  • Language. The role of missionary linguistics in shaping, standardizing and instrumentalizing local vernacular idioms; missionary translating activities between supporting the ‘civilizing’ goal of the missions and supporting the ‘colonization of consciousness’ through the unidirectional appropriation of language; missionary ethno- and sociolinguistics, the politics of language and the ‘creation’ of ethnolinguistic groups; the role of the vernacularin missionary policies and strategies.

  • Community and identity.The instrumentality of missionary ethnographic engagement with local cultures and traditional expressions in shaping social identities, creating subdivisions, and altering local social and religious hierarchies; the agency of local communities and individuals in such processes; the introduction/pursuing of Western ideologies about race, language and culture, and therewith of asymmetric social relationships between colonizers/evangelists and the colonized/evangelized.

  • Historiographies and individual life histories. The place and valuation of (Western) Christian missions, organizations and individual missionaries in local/national historical narratives; personal accounts and memories of missionaries and missionary institutions (schools, workshops, farms, hospitals, orphanages, etc.) as documented in interviews, (auto)biographies, oral traditions, etc.

  • Missionary legacies. The approach to, reminiscence and contestation of missions and missionaries in the ‘South’ as well as in the ‘North’ today (e.g. memorials, museum collections, buildings, literature, research, education, etc.); the tensions between heritagization, memorialization and mitigation of missionary/colonial history; the history of and the current positions in the debates on ethnological collections in the West originating from missionary activities, missionary archives, etc.

  • Architecture and spatial models. A re-engagement with the more archetypal research focus of missionary architecture (mission settlements, reductions, churches, schools, hospitals, etc.) could lead to, for example, exploring how the configuration of spatial models resonatedmissionary ambitions to restructure societalorganization on the whole; how local communities responded to the physical alteration of the landscape; how missionary activities/affected local conceptions of ‘space’ (natural, human, profane, sacred); how remaining missionary buildings or sites are seen/used/heritagized today.

  • Heuristics and methodology. We also invite methodological interventions that address the practical challenges that are involved when studying the histories of missions and missionaries, and missionary legacies in particular (through oral history, material sources, archival records, ethnographic descriptions, iconography, music/sounds, myths, legends, etc.

We feel very strongly about innovative and interdisciplinary research, preferably from a comparative perspective; e.g. diachronic analyses, cross-cultural interactions, interreligious influences,interactions between the secular and profane, etc. Afterwards, a number of research papers will be selected for an edited volume within the KADOC Mission and Modernity Studies published through Leuven University Press (GPRC).

Conference Web-Site: https://kadoc.kuleuven.be/english/research/mimora