Take Three…Hmmm….I Wonder How Many “Takes” This will Take???

So, here is “Take Three” of my revised focus statement/proposal introduction. I’m sure that “Take Three” is not the end…I also hope that the “director” of my production doesn’t want to eventually slam the clapper board (thank you Kate for finding the name of the ‘movie clicky board thing’ – Kate’s definition) and walk away… 🙂

 

During the time period 1885 – 1910, almost a hundred American women left their homes in the United States (some within a month of marriage) and travelled thousands of miles to East Asia, all in the name of a ‘call’ and a ‘mission’. These women were the first female missionaries to the tiny, very culturally different, country of Korea and their job entailed ministering to their Korean counterpart – the women of the “Hermit Kingdom”. While some arrived as new brides, others faced the peril of the Pacific Ocean crossing alone. They embarked on a career in the mission field as single female missionaries. From the very moment these women arrived in the port of Chemulpo, they experienced a culture vastly different from their own. Most likely, their first steps on Korean soil did not occur until after being carted, piggyback style, across the mud created by the large tidal differences on the eastern shores of the Yellow Sea. Female missionary Elise Shepping once asked a visiting American woman if she had ever been “ubbered”. The woman replied that she had not. Elise then gave her instructions to “select the tallest coolie from the ones you see now wading out from the shore – put your arms firmly around his neck and shut your eyes.”[1]

Cultural differences did not end with being “ubbered”. At the turn of the twentieth century, Korea considered itself to be the most Confucian state in the world.[2] Confucianism and its values, traditions and belief systems differed greatly from the Judeo-Christian traditions of the United States. In light of these differences, how did these American women missionaries create connections with Korean women when their cultural paradigms often opposed and conflicted each other?

Historian Sanjay Subrhamanyam purports that successful encounters between cultures are made; they don’t “just happen.”[3] People are the makers. People build the bridges.[4] According to Subrhamanyam, intermediaries who bridge gaps between cultures, employ improvisation in cross cultural facilitation and participate in mediation between disparate groups practice something he terms as “cultural commensurability.”[5] Subrhamanyam questions the idea that cultures are largely impermeable spheres that are “inaccessible to those who look in from the outside.”[6]

I contend that the American women missionaries built cultural bridges in purposeful actions of commensurability. They purposefully worked to create connections between themselves and the Korean women. American women’s missionary’s work in introducing education and health-care to Korean women opened the door to creative interchanges, which led to formations of understanding as well as productive misunderstandings. I also contend that their non-purposeful, as far as evangelism is concerned, spatial decisions concerning their homes was an important ingredient in their ability to bridge cultural divisions. I argue that their decision to build western style, large homes, actually produced a ‘safe’ space for Confucian women to interact with the American women.

Underlying this argument is the assumption that creative discourse, which includes the creation of understandings as well as productive misunderstandings, helps to bridge a cultural divide. Ideas of Sanjay Subrhamanyam on commensurability support the idea of creative discourse. Also underlying this argument is ways in which I state women see their home, Korean and American. Gaston Bachelard in his work The Poetics of Space addresses the ways in which humans perceive spaces as being ‘warm’ and ‘safe’ or ‘stifling.’[7] (note to self,  Dr. Jones and Dr. Schneider – I really think I need to read Habermas and I will as soon as I can.)

Many scholars of missionary work write about the work in education and medicine of missionary women and may see this work as being similar. This paper, however, will focus intently as the first interactions between Korean and American women and the relationships that develop, not so much at the educational or medicinal efforts of the missionaries. These activities will be looked at only to the extent that the work became a vehicle in developing connections. This paper will also look intently at the ways in which women view their home in Korea and America and how missionary homes become a place that both Korean and American women felt ‘safe’ and could explore cultural differences.

In examining the connections between American women missionaries and Korean women, I will lay a foundation for arguing that women played a large role in the rise of Christianity in Korea. The paper will also show that looking at the relationships and intercultural communication, which develops between people from different cultural backgrounds, creates better understandings of World History at large. In this project, I will use American missionary records, journals from the time period published in America and Korean and dissertations written in Korean and English about Christian Korean Women.

[1] Sarah Lee Vinson Timmons and compiler Hallie paxson Winsborough, eds., Glorious Living: Informal Sketches of Seven Women Missionaries of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (Atlanta, Georgia: Committee onf Woman’s Work, Presbyterian Church, U.S., 1957), 149.

[2] John Berthrong and Evelyn Berthrong, Confucianism: A Short Introduction (Oneworld Publications, 2014).

[3] Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Courtly Encounters: Translating Courtliness and Violence in Early Modern Eurasia (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2012), 212.

[4] Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Interview by Carol Nappi, “Interview with Sanjay Subrahmanyam,” accessed December 3, 2014, http://newbooksinhistory.com/2012/12/05/sanjay-subrahmanyam-courtly-encounters-translating-courtliness-and-violence-in-early-modern-eurasia-harvard-university-press-2012/.

[5] Subrahmanyam, Interview by Carol Nappi, “Sanjay Subrahmanyam Interview.”

[6] Subrahmanyam, Courtly Encounters, 155.

[7] Gaston Bachelard and John R. Stilgoe, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas, Reprint edition (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994), xxxv and 111.

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

7 Responses to Take Three…Hmmm….I Wonder How Many “Takes” This will Take???

  1. Anonymous

    Faith,
    You have the makings of a good proposal. I see the ways the different para. address the parts we suggest in the “Research Guide.” Here are some suggestions that might highlight things for your readers.
    First, show more ownership! Proposals need an agent — “I.” (OK, I see more of it as you move along. wrote that after reading the first two paragraphs.) So in your second para. In this thesis, I ask how, in light of these cultural differences… It’s the difference between a proposal and a research paper. Then take the first sentence of the 4th para. as the start of para. 3, followed by something like “By “cultural commensurability” I mean…then explain the theory you rely on. Para. 4, then is the “evidence” of commensurability. “As evidence of commensurability, I will look at…” Para. 5&6 make a very interesting point, but I think you are still thinking this one through, so you might try to simplify. The sentence re looking at relationships rather than the services provided seems like the gist of what you are adding to missionary literature, and the relationships lead directly to the last para. — the suggestion of a larger significance for your project.

  2. KJ

    Sometimes I feel like I’m anonymous, but here, I really meant to take credit.

  3. Kate Good

    First off, please include “Hermit Kingdom” somewhere in your eventual title!! What a hook!! Secondly, similar to what I’m seeing in everyone else’s, I feel like you need to pull your significance out a little more. I know it’s in there, but it would be awesome to see it up front and center. Or, maybe I’m just missing something in my tiredness and trying to absorb your awesome post. Some of column A, some of column B?

    Reading Habermas — DON’T DO ITTTTTTTT. (I hated it, hahaha) 🙂

  4. Carmen Bolt

    Faith,

    As always, I continue to feel like I am so far behind when I read your posts! You seem to have organized and prepared a really detailed proposal. Also, I envy your theoretical background–you seem to truly grasp the theoretical frameworks you are working with and are able to identify easily the ways in which they manifest or prove useful in your own work.

    I wonder, are the ways in which American women worked within Korea unique? In other words, were there similarities between the impact of American women’s mission work in Korea to other places? If so, is this significant?

    • faithskiles

      Hi Carmen,

      That is definitely something I would like to look at and plan to look at. I know they took some ideas from China when they started, but beyond that I don’t know! Let the learning begin! hahahahaha… 🙂

  5. Claire

    Hi Faith,

    You wrote, “In examining the connections between American women missionaries and Korean women, I will lay a foundation for arguing that women played a large role in the rise of Christianity in Korea. The paper will also show that looking at the relationships and intercultural communication, which develops between people from different cultural backgrounds, creates better understandings of World History at large. In this project, I will use American missionary records, journals from the time period published in America and Korean and dissertations written in Korean and English about Christian Korean Women.”

    In the transnational histories I have read lately, there seems to be a lot of acknowledgement of the work of women missionaries abroad and the importance of their role in this activity. Is there not much scholarship on this phenomenon in Korea in particular?

    Claire

    • faithskiles

      Hi Claire!

      The predominant theories right now, do not – not that I’ve found so far. They point to ideas such as syncretism, social work (but don’t point to women in particular), Japanese colonialism, and close associations between shamanism and Christianity as to supernatural occurrences. So…we shall see if something is out there I haven’t found yet…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.