The failed utopia: 'enlightening' the contradictions of christianisation, secularisation and civilisation in the Americas 
Juan Rivera Acosta (University of St Andrews)
Victor Cova (University of Aarhus)
Christopher Hewlett (University of Sussex)
Playfair Building, Main Hall
Start time:
20 June, 2014 at 9:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

This panel critically engages with the Enlightenment utopian projects as envisioned by colonial, missionary, state and Amerindian worldviews.

Long Abstract

The Enlightenment encouraged a period of European expansionism as colonies were established in the Americas with utopian visions of transforming the social and natural world into a rationally organised space. The futility of these dreams became obvious when missionaries and colonialists were unable to find the primitive state they were looking for in the indigenous population.

This panel engages with the contradictions embedded within the missionary projects in the Americas through time. These projects are often understood to be justified by the secularisation, Christianisation and civilisation of time and space brought forth by the emerging colonial and state institutions, which built on projects of conquest and missionization as well as indigenous spacetime. Although missionary groups often understood themselves as working for the Church rather than secular powers, both the Jesuits and the SIL were perceived as an intrusion on State sovereignty, and as potentially heretical by the Catholic Church. The conflict between State and missions enables us to address the problematic that the colonial project was and remains composed of often disconnected social imaginaries (e.g. secular "progress", messianic protestantism, maoist insurgencies) alternating between cooperation and conflict.

We invite papers examining the underlying questions in missionising processes of making humans out of "nature" and communities out of converts, in terms of the aims of missionaries and those who engaged in these projects. How are our understandings of (neo)colonialism in the Americas complicated by the mix of these projects and local processes?

Accepted papers: