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“Difficult Conversations across Religions, Race and Empires: American Women Missionaries and Japanese Christian Women during the 1930s and 1940s”

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This essay examines how American and Japanese women in the foreign missionary movement struggled to reconcile the rise of state Shintoism, Japanese patriotic nationalism, and American racism and nationalism with their Christian faiths during the 1930s and 1940s when the United States and Japan were moving towards war. It applies Kris Manjapra’s notion of “aspirational cosmopolitanism” as the conceptual framework in its exploration of how an American woman missionary and her Japanese convert developed different visions of egalitarian cosmopolitanism and remained faithful to their Christian faiths as the states of Japan and the United States demanded more conformity to their wartime notions of patriotism. Charlotte B. DeForest, the last missionary president of Kobe College, who struggled with the questions of shrine visits and racism against Japanese Americans, managed to shape a new hybrid identity as Christian and “supernational.” Takeda (Cho) Kiyoko, her former student, finally identified a Japanese dual consciousness through the image of “humans in shells”—a clue to another cosmopolitan vision rooted in Christian faith appropriate to Japanese culture in reconciliation with Asia.

Affiliations: 1: Sophia University,


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