The Missionary Home – Article Methodology

Hyaeweol Choi in the article “The Missionary Home as a Pulpit: Domestic Paradoxes in Early Twentieth-Century Korea” uses a spatial analysis in examining Korean women’s interactions with American missionaries’ homes and ideas of domesticity. It examines how these experiences were hybridized and propagated by Bible Women as well as disseminated among Korean women as “home economics”. Ms. Choi argues in the article that these transcultural interactions are best described as producing “a creative tension between devotion to the private domain and active public engagement.”[1]

According to Choi, American missionaries’ homes in Korea created much interest among Korean women. Perhaps due to the time that Americans arrived in Korea, towards the end of the 19th century, and after the development of American businesses that delivered American goods all over the world, American missionaries in Korea recreated American homes on Korean soil. Articles in these homes created great curiosity among Korean women. Items such as typewriters, chairs, tables, (tall ones with chairs) rugs, sewing machines and organs were new to Korean women. Their curiosity brought them to the homes and missionary women used the opportunity to teach domestic skills.

In Choi’s article, the spatial dynamic of the home is central to the analysis. She begins pointing to a spatial analysis in the title, which declares the home as a ‘pulpit’. In the article, Choi elaborates on this idea by pointing to the mission home’s differences materially to Korean homes. She also uses the home to show the ways in which American women distinguished their marital relationships and child-rearing practices from the Korean women’s marital culture and child-rearing methods. Missionary women demonstrated cleanliness, food preparation, sanitation and preservation, “scientific” methods for caring for babies and of course evangelized, all within the walls of their own homes – in essence making the home their pulpit.

In this spatial analysis, Choi illuminates the paradox at the center of the article. American women, on the one hand, teach and espouse the importance of home and domesticity, while on the other, open their homes, making them very public places in which missionary “business” is conducted. Prescriptive expectations often conflicted with reality; however, the missionary women seldom recognized this inconsistency.

[1] Hyaeweol Choi, “The Missionary Home as a Pulpit”, in Divine Domesticities, eds. Hyaeweol Choi, Margaret Jolly, (The Australian National University, 2014).


Filed under Research Methods

2 Responses to The Missionary Home – Article Methodology

  1. Carmen Bolt


    From what I can tell (and from what I understand of your project from discussion) this article seems to tie in quite closely with your own work. Do you see it as being helpful in your project/do you hold the same opinions as Choi? I also find the paradox you outline in the final paragraph to be of great interest–do you find that this paradox exists within your own research? Or will you use Choi’s article and others like it to make a contextual case?

    • faithskiles

      Hi Carmen,

      I think I don’t know enough yet to know if I hold the same opinions as Ms. Choi. I know her work is well researched and scholarly. I do expect to find paradoxes when I look at ways in which American women approached and made transcultural bridges with Korean women.

Leave a Reply