Journal Article

Ambivalent Imperialism: The Missionary Rhetoric of Robert Boyd

Justin Livingstone

in Literature and Theology

Volume 23, issue 2, pages 165-191
Published in print June 2009 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online April 2009 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI:
Ambivalent Imperialism: The Missionary Rhetoric of Robert Boyd

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Postcolonial Studies has directed much of its critique of British Imperialism at those informal agents responsible for the cultural crimes of colonial exploitation. Missionaries have routinely been charged with cultural annihilation and for conjuring up images of different and distant peoples and places. In keeping with a growing trend in historical studies, this article revisits the complexity of missionary involvement in colonialism, and its rhetorical construction of otherness. But I do this in quite a different way by examining as literature writings produced by missionaries themselves. Specifically, I analyse the works of Robert Boyd, a missionary in India in the early 20th century and later convener of Foreign Mission for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. By bringing the tools of rhetorical analysis to bear upon such ‘non-literary’ texts, I hope to intervene in a debate dominated by historians and theologians. I argue that the relationship between mission and imperialism is one of ambivalence, an ever complex dynamic, which refuses the cliché of the bible and the gun as the dual tools of empire.

Journal Article.  9518 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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