Yale-Edinburgh Group
on World Christianity and the History of Mission

Consultations sponsored by the Centre for the Study of World Christianity at the University of Edinburgh and Yale Divinity School
 
NEWS REGARDING THE 2020 YALE-EDINBURGH GROUP CONFERENCE

We are writing to cancel this year's Yale-Edinburgh conference. Whilst some countries are emerging from the pandemic, others are only entering it. Travel restrictions are likely to be in place for sometime. We are very sorry that we won't be welcoming participants to Edinburgh this year. We had a large number of fascinating abstracts. Those who have booked for the conference and accommodation will have their money reimbursed. This may take a week or two to reach your bank accounts, so please bear with the adminstrator, Mrs Jean Reynolds, as she deals with this. Please be in touch with cswc-events@ed.ac.ukif you have any practical difficulties. At this stage we would already like to invite you to Yale-Edinburgh 2021! We very much hope that it will be possible to hold the conference at the end of June next year. We propose to have the same theme 'Oral, print and digital cultures' and we will hold it in Edinburgh. It remains particularly topical as there has been an increased move to digital forms of Christian worship during the spread of COVID-19. This move remains uneven and dynamic. We will not keep the 2020 abstracts. You may like to submit the same one next year or write a new one.

Dr. Emma Wild-Wood and Dr. Alex Chow
University of Edinburgh


Theme for the 2021 Yale-Edinburgh Group Meeting

Oral, Print, and Digital Cultures in World Christianity and the History of Mission

Studies in world Christianity and the history of mission have not been afraid to engage the topic of culture. However, they have mostly referred to the encounters of Western Christian cultures with another, whether that be Confucian and Hindu culture, or the indigenous cultures of the Americas, Africa, and Oceania. This year's theme uses the language of culture to speak about three different mediums in which the Christian message is communicated and the Christian life is practiced. These cultures have developed somewhat chronologically, but they also simultaneously coexist in the contemporary world.

Oral culture is a vivid dimension of Christian expression, from the psalms of David to the sermons of Jesus and the prayers of the saints. Methodist missionaries, following the legacy of the Wesley brothers, readily preached and sang their faith. Christian hymnody has found local expression, be it in African American spirituals or ghazals and bhajans in India. Prophecy and glossolalia are often regarded by Pentecostals and charismatics as indicators of the faith. Christ's passion has been recalled in the Philippines through the indigenized form of the pasyón epic, whereas apparitions of the Virgin in Guadalupe and La Vang and of Saint George in Palestine have been vehicles to narrate the faith.

Print culture has also been an important medium for Christianity. Missionaries used print to propagate their message with vernacular Bibles and hymnbooks, catechisms and apologetic tracts. The widespread translation and dissemination of The Pilgrim's Progress has globalized seventeenth-century Puritan Christianity and provided a narrative for expressing local virtues. The Western printing press, introduced by missionaries to Shanghai, helped transform the treaty port into a major hub of print capitalism. Christian magazines and lantern slides were used to convey images of distant peoples to sending churches and mobilize publics against slavery and opium, whereas vernacular novels, short stories, and periodicals have contributed to the formation of independent nation-states and to unify diasporic populations.

As we have entered the digital age, the growing digital culture has opened up new vistas for world Christianity and the history of mission. New methods have been created to engage our subject, from the digitization of archives to the visualization of missionary populations on maps alongside centers of political and religious power. Digital technologies have opened up new possibilities for mission across borders, Christian public engagement over social media, and connecting Christian migrants around the globe. Yet Christian online activities have also been curtailed by forms of state censorship such as the Great Firewall of China. Digital media also exposes hierarchies of resourcing, showing which Christian communities have access to the technological infrastructure for a vibrant online presence and which communities are marginalized by their poverty or lack of expertise.

Oral, print, and digital cultures may transcend societies, but they find unique expressions throughout world Christianity and the history of mission. We anticipate our conference will open up a lively interdisciplinary conversation among historians, theologians, and social scientists studying religion, as well as to include scholars of other disciplines, such as media studies and digital humanities.

 


For more information contact: Christopher Anderson, Yale-Edinburgh Group coordinator: Yale Divinity Library, 409 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06511 --- Phone: 203 432-5289 --- Email: christopher.j.anderson@yale.edu