Seminar: Christianity, Conversion, and Overseas Chinese: Historical Moments in Religious Interaction


About the Seminar

This presentation is an offshoot of my current research, which explores the nature of religious interaction in Southeast Asia between 1500 and 1900. Throughout most of this time a major goal of Christian missions in Asia was to reach China, and Chinese communities in Southeast Asia were valued primarily as a preparatory training ground. Reviewing the period from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century, the presentation addresses the interaction between Christian missionaries and Chinese in Southeast Asia. It seeks to explain why Christianity was relatively slow to appeal to overseas Chinese, and why it did not gain any significant following until the 20th century. While recognizing that each location has its own history, I focus on three ‘historical moments’ when the Christianization of overseas Chinese assumes a prominent place in the sources: Spanish Manila, 1581-1639; the Straits Settlements, 1815-67; and Singapore and the Netherlands Indies in the 1930s. In adopting a comparative framework, I argue that historicizing the global connections between religious missions, the personalities involved, and the differing responses among overseas Chinese opens up new opportunities for Southeast Asia to become involved in the growing field of world history.

About the Speaker
BARBARA WATSON ANDAYA (Ph.D. Cornell University) is Professor and Chair of Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii, and currently Visiting Senior Fellow at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. Between 2003 and 2010 she was Director of the University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies and in 2005-06 she was President of the American Association of Asian Studies. In 2000 she received a John Simon Guggenheim Award, and in 2010 she was awarded the University of Hawai‘i Regents Medal for Excellence in Research. She has lived and taught in Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, the Netherlands, and the United States. Her specific area of expertise is the western Malay-Indonesia archipelago, on which she has published widely, but she maintains an active teaching and research interest across all Southeast Asia. Her publications include Perak, The Abode of Grace: A Study of an Eighteenth Century Malay State (1979); co-translator of Raja Ali Haji’s Tuhfat al-Nafis (The Precious Gift) (1982); To Live as Brothers: Southeast Sumatra in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (1993); The Flaming Womb: Repositioning Women in Early Modern Southeast Asia (2006). With Leonard Y. Andaya she has co-authored A History of Malaysia (1982; revised edition, 2000; third edition, forthcoming 2016); and A History of Early Modern Southeast Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2015). Her present project is a history of religious interaction in Southeast Asia, 1511-1900.

For registration, please fill in this form and email to by 16 June 2016.

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