The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of the Social Gospel in Asia, c. 1890s-1930s
Date : 25 Aug 2016 - 26 Aug 2016
Time : 09:45 - 18:00
Venue : Asia Research Institute
ARI Seminar Room, AS8 Level 4
10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260
Organisers : Jonathan RIGG, Stefan HUEBNER , Harald FISCHER-TINÉ, Yurou ZHONG
Download Program and Abstracts as of Aug 22

This conference is jointly organized by National University of Singapore, ETH Zurich, and the University of Toronto; and funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation.

The conference will examine an understudied but important topic of the emergence of modern Asia and of relations between Asia and the West: the impact of the Protestant “Social Gospel” on anti-colonial nationalism, internationalism, and modernization schemes between the 1890s and the 1930s. This period saw an increasing degree of “scientificity” and professionalization in approaches to social reform work, which was an outcome of developments during the American Progressive Era and was defined to a large extent by Protestant notions of the “Social Gospel”. This trend was initiated and supported by an emerging group of North American philanthropists and was substantiated and developed by Protestant missionaries and their local Asian recruits, who gained access to substantial funding. Besides catalyzing processes of “scientifization” and professionalization in the region, the spreading of the “Social Gospel” also influenced international mobility and collaboration. As Western religious reformers moved between locales, Asian recruits underwent training abroad and usually returned home with renewed expertise. Quite often, this included modifying Western expertise and adjusting it to local situations. Collectively, the reformers spread the spirit of the “Social Gospel” in an array of fields, such as health, education, literature, sports, citizenship training, and rural reconstruction. As a consequence, our conference addresses an important political, social, cultural, economic, and religious topic of Asia’s transformation during a period characterized by struggles for self-government, calls for a more egalitarian world order, and what Michael Adas termed the “assault on the civilizing mission ideology”. While the imperial “civilizing missions” of the colonial powers were challenged, reformers promoted a more liberal one that sought to make Asian societies ready for self-government.


Admission is free, and seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. We greatly appreciate it if you click on the "Register" button above to indicate your interest to attend the event.


Stefan Huebner (Hübner)
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
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Harald Fischer-Tiné
Institute of History, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
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Yurou Zhong
Department of East Asian Studies, University of Toronto, Canada
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Jonathan Rigg
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
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Contact Person(s)
Sharon ONG