Congratulations to Alexandra Kaloyanides, whose monograph, Objects of Conversion, Relics of Resistance, received the Claremont Prize for the Study of Religion from the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life at Columbia, and is now contracted with Columbia University Press.
Abstract: The story of the American Baptist mission to Burma is a story of conversion—both failed and sweeping. Throughout the nineteenth century, Burmese Buddhists largely resisted Christian evangelism, whereas astonishing numbers of non-Burmese minority communities were being baptized. And American Baptist Christianity also found itself changed in the Buddhist kingdom. Missionaries who had arrived vilifying Buddha statues found themselves creating tree shrines and their converts hanging multicolored Jesus paintings in their churches. As eccentric as these objects might seem, they prove to be at the center of this story of religion in Burma. This book focuses on powerful Southeast Asian artifacts to understand how the Burmese majority transformed Buddhism to counter Christianity, how minority communities took on Baptist identities, and how Protestantism transformed into a kind of Southeast Asian religion. Each chapter examines a holy object to reveal the mechanics by which different communities presented themselves religiously in this period of clashing and reimagined worlds—British, Burmese, and American. By telling stories of four key things—the sacred book, the school house, the pagoda, and the portrait—this book illuminates little-known histories of Burma’s last kingdom and America’s first foreign mission.