Kinesernas vänner : en analys av missionens berättelse som ideologi och utopi

Detta är en avhandling från Jönköpings läns museum, Box 2133, SE-550 02 Jönköping, Sweden

Sammanfattning: This thesis intends to answer the question: How was the narrative of the mission in China formulated and used to engender and sustain the fervour of the friends of the mission in the 1890s? It was at this time, with growing unemployment, lack of housing, and of poverty – a time when new and challenging ideas emerge – that the interest in the missions to China awoke. The context of the missionary narrative in this thesis is the Swedish town of Jönköping, a place with a strong religious image and therefore often called “Småland’s Jerusalem”. How did a group of young men – members of the YMCA – shape and develop their thoughts in this troublesome time? In the self-contained manner of thought of the missionary movement's collective mind, the fervour and devotion was built upon the members' sense of belonging together, of everybody participating in the missionary work, and in the conviction of its feasibility and ultimate success. But the story sent home by the missionary was more complex and it may appear contradictory and difficult to interpret. With the help of four “figures of thought” – the concept was developed by the sociologist Johan Asplund – I have been able, however, to discover a pattern. Sometimes the narrative expressed the trusting hope of universalism and metamorphosis, sometimes Christian self-assurance and righteousness, sometimes the utopian Apocalypse. Thus the social imagination of the missionary movement – my arguments about the social imagination and its ideological and utopian functions derive from the philosopher Paul Ricoeur – created a communal structure of belonging and participation, and legitimised a sense of confirmation and selection. In this structure dwelled the fervour of the missionary movement. Here, an imperfect world and a complex narrative were held together, and within this structure one's own life became purposeful and valuable. But the social imagination also contains true utopian functions in Riceour's sense. The social imagination's utopian function of exploration, criticism and alternative solutions was for instance used by female missionaries (and, to be true, some male) to tear down the barriers between the sexes, but also by uneducated young men (and young women) to overcome barriers of class and education. Both groups challenged the regular social order, which in the 1890s was already reeling. The figure of thought’s universal view of humanity gave them the right, the possible metamorphosis the ability, and the Christian standard the confirmation of truth. With the help of the utopian promise, zealous workers were created willing to give the missionary cause their body and soul. The apocalyptic figure of thought, and a conviction of belonging to the Chosen, legitimised the leap, for some even made it necessary. Finally, the thesis discusses the importance and consequences of the fervour in one town, Jönköping. For many of pious in Jönköping, the missions were a journey towards a single, common world.

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