Hugh Morrison
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Public representations
Missionary children inhabiting literary spaces
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Chapter 1 focuses on missionary children as inhabitants of the vibrant and extensive religious and secular literary spaces ubiquitous throughout the period under study. Public and denominational newspapers or periodicals, books and novels are the main sources examined. Both adult and child readers are considered. It argues that through this literature the wider reading public most often encountered missionary children. This was a constitutively important encounter. Conceptually the chapter suggests that literature, as a site, formed a mixture of emotional community, culture contact zone and imperial textual commons. Here missionary children were encountered and ‘known’. These literary spaces served simultaneously as points of imperial contact and commonality, doubly drawing together juvenile readers into the orbit of a shared emotional community with their missionary peers and inscribing missionary children as both an exotic focus and a cause for collective concern. At the same time, missionary children were drawn into fellow commonality with their peers in countries of origin, sometimes speaking for themselves while often filling the role of ‘other’. Through such representations, certain public perceptions of missionary children were formed, cemented and sustained over many decades that were often pejorative or negatively framed and from which missionary children emerged as objects of pity. This is illustrated through a case study of a disaster in northeast India in 1899. In the longer term, this literature helped to feed or sustain identifiable adult-centric narratives, which are the focus of the following chapters.

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