Going Native or Remaining Foreign? – Interview with Nadine Amsler



This article is part of the TRAFO series ‘Emerging Topics. Insights from ‘Behind the Scenes’. Today, we put the spotlight on the international workshop „Going Native or Remaining Foreign? Catholic Missionaries as Local Agents in Asia (17th to 18th Centuries)“. The workshop is organized by the Deutsches Historisches Institut in Rom, the École Française de Rome, the Istituto Svizzero di Roma and the Abteilung für Neuere Geschichte des Historischen Instituts der Universität Bern. It will take place at the Deutsches Historisches Institut in Rom, the École Française de Rome and the Istituto Svizzero di Roma from 30 May to 1 June 2017.

Nadine Amsler is one of four conveners of the workshop. Her research interests include the cultural entanglements between China and Europe in the Early Modern Era, the notion of Religion in Modern History, Catholicism after the Council of Trient, and the History of Gender. She is currently an Assistant Lecturer at the Department for Early Modern History at the University of Bern.

Please find the program of the workshop here.


The workshop attempts to investigate the roles of Christian missionaries across the Asian continent. How did this idea emerge? What are the central questions you want to address?

The idea for a conference that attempts to compare early modern missionaries’ local entanglements in different regions of the Asian continent is the result of a dialogue over the past few years between the organizers, who work on as different Asian regions as the Ottoman empire, Safavid Persia, and Ming and Qing China. In the course of this exchange the impression emerged that, despite different cultural contexts, a number of similarities between these missions existed. We developed the hypothesis that missionaries’ options for action in Asian localities under non-Christian authorities were strongly defined by the respective communicative setting: The local alliances forged by missionaries living in bustling urban hubs differed from those created by missionaries placed in less densely populated rural areas; missionaries living in a court setting in close proximity to a non-Christian prince often assumed different roles than their confreres staying in non-governing cities or in a rural setting. The conference aims to test this hypothesis by encouraging a dialogue about different communicative settings between scholars with different regional expertises. We are interested in the missionaries’ social, political, economical, and epistemological entanglements, and on the ways in which local gender arrangements influenced the missionaries’ options for action.

Based on the topics and questions that have been discussed in the research on missionaries so far: How could transregional perspectives enrich the debate?

Nadine Amsler (photo: private)

In the past two decades, researchers of different academic subfields have started to investigate the local entrenchment of Christian communities and missionaries’ entanglements with early modern Asian societies. An impressing range of studies has shown that Catholic missionaries who worked in Asia during the 17th and 18th centuries showed a striking openness to local ways of life. However, comparisons between the missionaries’ local entanglements in different regions of the continent have so far only rarely been attempted. The transregional perspective encourages a dialogue on modes of interaction between European missionaries in different Asian localities under non-Christian authority. It also helps, furthermore, to deepen our understanding of cultural and social differences between the local Christianities under discussion.

The workshop invites speakers with a broad range of regional expertise in Asia. What are the unique perspectives and insights that the participants might gain from your workshop? What kinds of discussions do you want to encourage?

Previous conferences with participants working on different Catholic missions in early modern Asia often focused on missionaries as Roman agents. By inviting an exchange about missionaries as local agents, we hope to refine our understanding of early modern missionaries. Furthermore, a particularity of the workshop is its internationality. It is held in Rome, hosted by the scientific institutes of Germany, France and Switzerland, and invites speakers of a broad range of countries. The workshop is therefore also an important opportunity to encourage a dialogue between different scientific traditions.


Further contributions to the TRAFO series „Emerging Topics“: 

Citation: Going Native or Remaining Foreign? – Interview with Nadine Amsler, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 24.05.2017, https://trafo.hypotheses.org/6902.


Diesen Blogbeitrag zitieren
Editorial Board (2017, 24. Mai). Going Native or Remaining Foreign? – Interview with Nadine Amsler. TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research. Abgerufen am 14. Juni 2024, von https://doi.org/10.58079/usmd

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