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Class Collaboration for the Sake of Religion: Elite Control and Social Mobility in a Nineteenth-Century Colonial Mission

Jon Miller
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Vol. 29, No. 1 (Mar., 1990), pp. 35-53
DOI: 10.2307/1387029
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1387029
Page Count: 19
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Class Collaboration for the Sake of Religion: Elite Control and Social Mobility in a Nineteenth-Century Colonial Mission
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Abstract

The Basel Mission is a Pietist evangelical organization that was active in many areas of the colonial world in the nineteenth century. In addition to the intrinsic religious satisfaction it offered to all its members, the Mission provided its leaders with social honor and an arena in which to sustain useful long-term ties to others like themselves. For most of the rank and file, acceptance into the missionary life represented social ascendancy well beyond their modest material origins. I will explore how the prospect of this gain affected their decisions to participate and then go a step further by calibrating the extent to which they were able to pass on their newly acquired social advantages to their offspring. The discussion of the findings concentrates on the unintended secular consequences of such religiously motivated activities, and it speculates about the implications for the changing class structures of nineteenth-century Europe and the colonial world.

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