The art of mission: the role of visual culture in Victorian mission to southern Africa, 1840-1910

Brown, Clare Rachel (2018) The art of mission: the role of visual culture in Victorian mission to southern Africa, 1840-1910. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The visual culture of Victorian Protestant missionaries is an under-researched area, despite the current interest in art and religion, and the implications of missionary imagery’s legacy in a post-colonial world. Looking specifically at British missionaries to southern Africa, this thesis proposes that visual culture, comprised of art, image, and their corollaries in personal and collective imagination, be recognised as an appropriate framework through which to re-examine a group predominantly associated with the Word. In particular, it argues that visual resources were not only communicated with originating missionary societies and home supporters, but were utilised as tools for evangelism and education, and the development of self-identity for men and women operating far from home.
Beginning with a theoretical defence of visual culture as an appropriate and meaningful lens through which to investigate mission, the thesis goes on to consider the formative visual culture of prospective missionaries, identifying how and why evangelical Protestants accessed images. Key themes of landscape and portraiture are identified, and the varied media through which these were encountered investigated, including printed publications, gallery art, domestic ephemera, and ecclesial decorations. A detailed examination of the popular religious periodical The Sunday at Home brings together the exploration of these diverse themes. The second half of the thesis transitions from visual influences on prospective missionaries at home, to the visual culture of foreign missionary practitioners, pivoting on the activity of missionary training. An exploration of training reveals a disconnect between the importance of art and image in popular religious life, and a failure to address adequately their evangelistic applications. Moving into the final sections of the project, art and image re-emerge as significant, though the lack of guidance on their use is shown to have limited their co-ordination and effectiveness. Nevertheless, archive research in the UK, and field research in Malawi and South Africa, yielded sufficient material to demonstrate the particular importance of the landscape genre, and of the magic lantern as a crucial visual medium.
Although visual materials were significant in the construction of missionary identity, and were heavily utilised in mission contexts, there was a widespread lack of engagement with, and distrust of, the visual, creating the complex and ambiguous interactions with which this thesis is ultimately concerned.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Victorian mission, Protestant mission, visual culture, visual aids, southern Africa, magic lantern.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Funder's Name: Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Supervisor's Name: Pattison, Professor George and Willsdon, Professor Clare
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Dr Clare R Brown
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-30988
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 15 Nov 2018 14:42
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2023 11:43
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.30988

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