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Conversionary SitesTransforming Medical Aid and Global Christianity from Madagascar to Minnesota$
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Britt Halvorson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226557120

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226557434.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 27 February 2021

Remembering and Forgetting through Medical Aid Work

Remembering and Forgetting through Medical Aid Work

(p.27) Chapter One Remembering and Forgetting through Medical Aid Work
Conversionary Sites

Britt Halvorson

University of Chicago Press

This chapter establishes the historical context through which the medical relief relationship between Madagascar and Minnesota has taken shape, arguing that aid relationships are formations in time and of time. Specifically, it examines how, through the aid relationship, religious actors in both locations rework their sense of a shared colonial past, redeeming certain histories of colonial interaction while actively “forgetting” or breaking from other pasts. These ruptures crucially underpin the political ideology that humanitarian work is a more egalitarian and neutral activity, respectful of Malagasy sovereignty, than the colonial missions that came before. Southern Madagascar and the Midwest U.S. have been historically connected due to a century of American Lutheran (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) evangelism in Madagascar, in which American missionaries’ competition for healing authority with Malagasy ritual practitioners (ombiasa) figured prominently. After tracing significant colonial medical encounters between Americans and Malagasy, the chapter illustrates how Americans today actively recuperate late-colonial efforts to build footpaths between their work under colonial rule and current aid projects, while ideologically breaking from the earlier colonial past through the locally-elaborated, maligned figure of the “colonial missionary.” The chapter shows how religious actors reorient relations of past and present as they become humanitarians.

Keywords:   Humanitarianism, Remembering, Forgetting, Colonialism, Globalization of medicine, Evangelism, Lutheran, Madagascar, Christianity

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