ASP Lecture. “Physical Expressions of Winning Hearts and Minds: Body Politics of the American Missionaries and Armenians of ‘Asiatic Turkey’.”
This lecture investigates the use of visual representations or photographic descriptions by missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) as proof of their successful evangelizing. Comments will be focused on the missionaries of the “Asiatic Turkey Mission” (those in Western, Central, and Eastern Turkey) in the second half of the nineteenth century, whose proselytizing focused on Armenians in the region. The speaker will argue that bodily conditions of targeted constituencies and their physical surroundings (rooms, houses, villages) were reconceived and re-conceptualized by missionaries as material representations and mirrors of religious and moral progress. This was usually done in the genre of before-and-after photographs, one criticizing or pitying the former “wretchedness” of people, and the other appraising how they “grew finer.” Assuming that sincere belief—or for that matter conversion—is a delicate matter to present evidence for, these visual representations or descriptions were useful tools to convince the world of believers and benevolent contributors that these people were genuinely “civilized” into good Christians and were leading a Christian life.
Nazan Maksudyan is an assistant professor of history at the Sociology Department of Istanbul Kemerburgaz University. She held Wissenschaftskolleg (2009-2010) and Alexander von Humboldt postdoc positions (2010-1012) in Berlin at Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO). Her publications include “Orphans, Cities, and the State: Vocational Orphanages (Islahhanes) and 'Reform' in the Late Ottoman Urban Space” in IJMES 43(3), 2011; and “Foster-Daughter or Servant, Charity or Abuse: Beslemes in the Late Ottoman Empire” in Journal of Historical Sociology 21(4), 2008. Her research is focused on the history of children and youth in the Ottoman lands.
Sponsors: ASP, CMENAS