Fostering Obligations: Representations of a Mission in South India in the first half of the 20th Century

Project: Dissertation

Layman's description

Christian missionaries played an important role in forming early 20th century Swedish world views. But their depictions of everyday life in foreign countries were formulated on the basis of an aspiration not only to convert people to Christianity, but also to educate, shape and change people according to Swedish and Christian ideals. These missionary narratives are the focus of the present thesis.

In 1909, a Swedish hospital was founded in the small southern Indian town of Tirupattur. It is this hospital, or rather the accounts of it formulated over the following forty years by Swedes there, that is the focus of this thesis.

Images from the 1900s of countries such as India have been strongly marked by accounts from Christian missionary projects. But these depictions were permeated by the mission projects’ aspirations and the accounts were coloured by being viewed through the missionaries’ Swedish, Christian and Western lenses. The aim was not only to make people receptive to Christianity but also to a way of life that was formulated on the basis of changing ideals. Letters, articles and books provided stories of progress and setbacks, experiences and meetings, as part of a legitimising account of a missionary assignment in which the Swedish presence in India was presented as necessary and meaningful.

The aim of this thesis is to investigate the Swedish missionaries’ legitimising accounts of their transformative missions in India. Through the analysis of the representation of human bodies, characteristics and space in the texts, one can see how the ideals were formulated and what they were compared to, as well as how they opened the way to change on the basis of these contrasts. The intention is also to problematise the excessively sharp boundaries drawn between Us and foreign Others, between ideals and counter images.
Effective start/end date2005/09/012010/12/31