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date: 25 June 2021

Settler Colonialism and U.S. Home Missionslocked

Settler Colonialism and U.S. Home Missionslocked

  • Matthew J. SmithMatthew J. SmithNorthwestern University

Summary

Home Missions in the United States was a white Protestant missionary movement within the geopolitical borders of the US empire—both its contiguous states as well as its colonial territories—as they developed and shifted through a long history of US imperial expansion, settlement, and conquest. From the beginning of the 19th century, Anglo-Protestants in the United States became invested in the home missionary movement to secure Christian supremacy on the land that made up their newly forming white settler nation. Home Missions was occupied with both the formation of a sacred homeland and the homes within that homeland. As a dual-homemaking endeavor, home missionary projects functioned as settler colonial technologies of space-making and race-making. They not only sought to transform the land into an Anglo-Protestant possession but also racialized people as foreign to maintain Anglo-Protestant sovereignty over the spaces mapped as a home through colonial conquest. Centering settler colonialism within an analysis of Home Missions denaturalized home and foreign as taken-for-granted spatial categories by considering them colonial significations. Home Missions sought to remake conquered territory habitable for Anglo-Protestant settlement, using the concepts home and foreign to govern people differently within that conquered territory.

Gaining prominence in the postbellum United States, women’s societies for Home Missions cooperated across multiple Protestant denominations and between multiple missionary sites across the US empire in forming a transcolonial network aimed at uplifting the homes of the nation. These colonial sites included missions to “Indians,” “Negroes,” “City Immigrants,” “Orientals,” “Mountaineers,” “Loggers,” “Porto Rico,” “Alaska,” and more. White women entered new public spheres by making the racial uplift of homes across the nation a practice of imperial domesticity. Women in Home Missions sought to create subject citizens of the US nation by shaping the habits, tendencies, and racial constitution of people through the cultivation and management of Christian homes. Homes were spaces of both racial uplift and the maintenance of racial purity. Thus, missionaries were not only preoccupied with making Christian citizens for the nation but were also concerned with maintaining racial distinctions characteristic of the anxieties of US colonial governance at the turn of the 20th century.

Through Home Missions, Anglo-Protestants participated in an imperial process that sought to transform the land and its inhabitants while also forming racializations, gender systems, and political economies that mapped onto an imaginary in which a particular vision of settled homes/homeland occupied a central analytic. By treating “home” in Home Missions as a critical category, one is able to reconsider the maneuverings of religion, empire, nation, race and gender/sexuality within the context of settler colonial conquest, possession, and settlement.

Subjects

  • Religion in America

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