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Testimonies, Protocols, and Spiritual Stories

Testimonies, Protocols, and Spiritual Stories

(p.37) 3 Testimonies, Protocols, and Spiritual Stories
The Story of Radio Mind
Pamela E. Klassen
University of Chicago Press

Beginning with the significance of testimony and confession in Christian missionary practice, this chapter sets storytelling in longer historical contexts of both Christian evangelization and Indigenous protocols and ethics. When a wave of missionaries fanned out across the British Empire in the nineteenth century, their storytelling protocols depended on genres of confession and testimony for propagating the gospel. Along the way, on the northwest coast and elsewhere, they encountered and clashed with other storytellers, including Indigenous peoples and anthropologists, and discovered that the medium through which people channeled their testimonies, whether a totem pole or a printing press, also mattered. Defining confession by way of the writings of Augustine and Protestant statements of faith, the chapter draws on scholars such as John Durham Peters, Charles Taylor, Courtney Bender, Peter Brooks, Margaret Seguin and Tammy Anderson Blumhagen. The chapter argues that missionary writings circulated in an international network of print culture that was crucial to maintaining the financial solvency of their work: their writings traveled through the mail in an exchange of stories for cash. Developing the concept of a Protestant potlatch, the chapter compares missionary testimony to northwest coast feasting practices that the missionaries and colonial government tried to obliterate.

Keywords:   testimony, confession, storytelling protocols, ethics, John Durham Peters, Charles Taylor, potlatch, print culture, missionary writing, feasting system

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