Master of Arts
Western mission justified a mission to the Global South that was ingrained with the dominance of its culture and values. Women’s mission, as a tool of this mission, patronized themselves as the ‘care-taker’ of the ‘subjugated’ women of the Global South. This mission promulgated new ways of thinking and prescribed new gender roles and values to the Global South. In doing so, it framed the traditional roles and cultural values of the non-Western world as oppressive and replaceable. Subsequently, Women’s mission along with Western feminism and Feminist theology as a broad idea has been challenged by feminists from the Global South. This research examines the impact of Western missions from the early to the modern period among the Khasi and Garo tribal communities in Northeast India. It will examine how the Western context influenced and shaped the later women missionaries’ outlook on these tribal people and analyze the impact of modern missions.
Summary for Lay Audience
The eighteenth-century European and North American missions to the non-Western world were crucial to establishing Christianity in a diverse historical and geographical context. Under colonialism, the purpose of the mission served two objectives: first, to convert natives into colonial subjects and, secondly, to propagate the missionary’s ideal superior culture. Women’s mission from the West, as a subset tool of this mission, patronized themselves as the ‘care-taker’ of the ‘subjugated’ women of the non-Western world. It promulgated new ways of thinking and prescribed new gender roles and values to the women in non-western societies.
This thesis defines and analyzes the Western Christian mission and how Western socio-cultural, religious, and political factors shaped the female missionaries to be the ideal tool for cultural imperialism over the non-Western world. The role of women in Western missions and their ideals reflect the socio-economic struggles of women within the Western context. As the 20th century progressed, Western feminism and Feminist theology met with Women’s mission as a broad idea and influenced the female missionaries with the notion of ideal universal womanhood as practical for any given society. The West’s imposition of its ideal womanhood sadly fails to appreciate the complex patterns of Indigenous thoughts, values, and cultural and religious traditions followed by women in the non-Western world.
A case study on the Khasi and Garo tribal societies in Northeast India demonstrates how Western missions to the Global South have had both beneficial, at the same time, detrimental effects on these societies. The study examines how the Western mission’s imposition of an ideal egalitarian society, gender roles, and womanhood culturally transformed certain groups within the tribal community, and what are the consequences. This study is crucial for two reasons: a) the overall tendency of Western feminists to universalize gender issues based on their own experience, together with their long-standing conflict with tradition and its prescriptive gender roles; b) Western feminism has created a distorted understanding of women from non-Western communities and, through this process, changed some of the traditional categories of womanhood and the values associated with them.
Philip, Rosemary, "Women and Western Mission: A Case Study on the Christian Khasi and Garo Tribal Women" (2022). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 8540.
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