The crossroads of Earth and Heaven: Methodism's Malaysia Mission and the making of the global world, 1885-1995
Scott, David William
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This dissertation argues that missionary religion played a role in the development of historical globalization, defined as an increase in global flows leading to global interdependence and the sense of the world as one. It asserts that globalization, far from being a contemporary phenomenon, was well underway at the turn of the twentieth century and that religious forces deserve consideration as drivers of this process along with economic, political, and other factors. This dissertation uses a case study of Methodist missions in Malaysia to make this point. It examines the ways in which the Malaysia Mission served as a globalizing force for those involved with it. While the mission benefitted from the globalizing effects of migratory networks, capitalism, colonialism, and communication technologies, it also facilitated global flows of people, resources, power, information, and ideologies. The Malaysia Mission acted as a social network to guide and assist the world-wide movement of mission supporters, missionaries, and church members. It developed capacities similar to a multinational corporation or international non-governmental organization and was thereby able to coordinate personnel and logistics on an international scale, raise money broadly, and support entrepreneurial economic endeavors. In its role as a voluntary organization that educated its members, the Malaysia Mission facilitated processes of individual empowerment among its local leaders, women, and students. Through its function as a global communications network, the mission spread concepts about the land and people of Malaysia to justify its expansion; used news to forge a sense of connection to the communities of the mission, Methodism more broadly, and evangelical Protestantism; and spread Protestant, Methodist, and holiness theological and moral ideals. In its most important and unique contribution to globalization, the Malaysia Mission prompted those associated with it to think of themselves and the world in new ways, as global people in a global space. Globalization, this dissertation concludes, is predicated upon an understanding of the world as a global whole. Missionary religion played a significant role in creating that notion. This insight inspires a reconsideration of scholarly understandings of globalization, missionary religion, and the relationship between the two.
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