Geschichte der Frühen Neuzeit
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Dissertation Abstract

My dissertation project focuses on gender norms and practices in Chinese Christian communities established by Jesuit missionary activity during the long seventeenth century. It is my goal to analyze how European and Chinese gender norms and practices affected each other in the context of the Sino-Western cultural contact initiated by the missionaries. The project consists of two parts. First, I analyze the ways in which European Jesuits engaged with Chinese gender relations in the course of their mission in China. I show that the Jesuits’ adoption of the Chinese scholar-gentry’s habitus entailed a partial adaptation to Confucian gender norms. The latter placed great emphasis on gender segregation and therefore discouraged direct communication between missionaries and Chinese women. This resulted in the emergence of organizational and devotional arrangements of Christian communities specific to China. Second, I discuss Chinese Christian women's religious culture that emerged in the absence of a strong missionary presence among female devotees. I show that Chinese Christian women created their own ritual culture and religious sociability in the domestic context, and that they actively took part in shaping Chinese Christianity as masters of domestic rituals.