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Interpreting Non-Christian Cultures: Jesuit Biases

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Chapter Summary

Historians today agree that the Jesuit interpretation of foreign nations was biased and needs to be treated carefully. First, Jesuit interpretations of Japanese culture will be contrasted with Japanese reality that can be recognised from a thorough non-European standpoint and thus is independent of the influence of Euro-Christian missionaries. Second, this identification of misunderstandings and biases will be applied to the written cultural observations of the evangelistic successors, the Jesuits of New France. Third, probable biases will be eliminated from the reading of the French missionary accounts to arrive at a more plausible image of several aspects of Amerindian culture. The Jesuit biases are evident in two categories of observations. The non-Christian religion, to begin with, was a primary theme in the Jesuit accounts of native culture, just as Japanese spirituality was in the Iberian accounts.

Keywords: European; French; Japanese culture; Jesuit biases; non-Christian religion



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