- Christian Model, Mission Realities: The business of regularizing family in mission communities in late nineteenth-century north India
- Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 14, Number 1, Spring 2013
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The ideal modern evangelical mission family may be read as both representative of “the” imperial family—nuclear in its construction, religiously Protestant, culturally Western and materially progressive—yet a closer examination of those families can only complicate that understanding. Mission families very often either lived apart for long periods of time, or were contoured with the various additions of extended family members, with servants and mission adherents and with mission colleagues who lived together. Thus, if it is possible to examine the elements constitutive of “family,” and analyze the variety of relations that existed in mission communities, the concept of mission “family,” while valuable, must allow for a broader and more inclusive concept in order to fully account for the sorts of intense, long-lasting relationships that were formed in mission colonial communities. An intersectional analysis of mission families seems to suggest that—both in order to preserve mission-imperial community solidarity, or in some cases, because of quietly preserved space that existed in evangelical cultures for ecstatic spiritual sexuality, missions were less restrictive regarding “family” groupings in practice than has been acknowledged by those interested in the mission past. This article offers a critique of the notion that anything like a “model” mission family existed in reality by considering the work of the London Missionary Society (LMS) and its work in the Kumaon area of north India, in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Its work there offers a snapshot of the various ways in which a heteronormative model of Christian married love was actually practiced in the mission-colonial encounter.