23rd February: Michael Ratnapalan (Yonsei University): ‘Our Father’s Footprints’ Robert Louis Stevenson’s writing on the Pacific Islands and the Anthropology of Conversion, 1888-1894. Respondent: Kirsten Murray.
Produced during the last six years of his life, Robert Louis Stevenson’s (1850-94) writing on the Pacific Islands has come to be recognized for its engagement with theories of anthropology. Whether framed as a challenge to conventional evolutionist models of cultural change or as the application of Scottish comparative jurisprudence, critics now regard his work as part of the turn of the century debate about the meaning and study of culture. However, modern scholarship has hardly touched an essential aspect of Stevenson’s interest in anthropology: the missionary contribution. The present essay provides an intellectual context for the missionary work that Stevenson observed, wrote about, and participated in. Stevenson was thoroughly engaged with the philosophical and pastoral issues that were central to this work and he made an important contribution to the theory of conversion by linking it with cultural regeneration.
A joint seminar with the Religion and Literature Network and CSWC.