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The “Biographical Lives” of Missionary Barend Schuurman

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Spatial and Temporal Contexts in Biographical Renderings of Schuurman’s Life

For more content, please see Le Fait Missionnaire.

This article engages with the genre of missionary biography through the lens of the life of Dutch missionary Barend Schuurman and the biographical commemorations of him. Missionary Barend Schuurman worked in East Java from 1922 until he died as a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II. After his death, and during the years of the Indonesian War of Independence, Schuurman rose to prominence as one of the few missionaries who had tried to bring Christianity to the population in East Java from an ‘insider’ perspective. Bringing in questions about the spatial and temporal contexts in Barend Schuurman’s biography, this article seeks, first, to destabilise heroic missionary narratives by drawing attention to the entangled belongings present in Schuurman’s work. Secondly, the article highlights how changing contemporary concerns in Dutch mission influenced Schuurman’s rise to fame within the nationally and transnationally constituted genre of missionary biography.

Affiliations: 1: University of Groningen


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