Beyond Empire: Postcolonialism and Mission in a Global Context

by Jonathan Ingleby

Ingleby's observations constitute a call to deeper engagement, in the name of Christ and in the spirit of the in-breaking Kingdom of God.

AuthorHouse, 500 Avebury Boulevard, Central Milton Keynes, MK9 2BE, U.K., 2010, xix, 279 pages, £11.99.

Reviewed by Dwight P. Baker, associate director, Overseas Ministries Study Center, New Haven, Connecticut.

Historically, the outflow of the missionary movement from the West intertwined with the great European migration that took the merchants, navies, armies, and peoples of that small continent to all corners of the globe. There they planted European flags and sowed the seeds from which great empires grew. Missionaries sometimes preceded the flag, sometimes followed, but overall they were likelier to be found serving within territory administered by compatriots than in lands administered by their homeland’s political opponents or commercial competitors. How did the two—missionaries and empires—relate?

In the past couple of decades that vexed question has received important scholarly attention. Were missionaries imperialists? Were they beneficiaries of empire? Were they mere fellow travelers, happy enough to find persons who spoke a familiar language ruling the lands to which they went? During the high imperial era, there were some of each. Did missionaries become critics of empire, reformers of empire, outright opponents of empire? Some individuals also became each of these. Thoroughly researched historical studies by, for example, Andrew Porter (2004) and John Darch (2009), cast much light on this topic.

Jonathan Ingleby’s investigation moves in a different direction. Particular empires figure in the discussion, but they do not stand at the forefront. The British empire, the Roman empire, or that of the United States serve merely as large-scale exemplars of a much more widespread and fundamental phenomenon. His interest is in the resources, conceptual and spiritual, that Christ’s followers have for recognizing and responding to “empireness” (my term) or the “Domination System” (his term) at whatever level or in whatever form it shows itself. In what ways are we—and those among whom we live and labor—captive to and enslaved by what Paul calls “the powers”? How can they be exposed and stripped of their potency?

Colonialism has a history. It occurred. By and large it is no longer present with the face it wore a century ago, indeed, just over a half century ago. As the sequence from colonialism to postcolonialism flowed into neocolonialism and now colors globalization, what language and conceptual tools from postcolonial discourse and analysis can Christ’s followers turn to advantage in their own struggles with the Domination System? Is there language to be found here that can help us in re-conceiving our own relationship with empire? The missionary movement from the West and mission-established churches also have a history. In what ways does that history from establishment and control to resistance to continued domination through informal structures mirror the course of political colonialism? The parallels are instructive and Ingleby guides us to answers.

Ingleby served in India for twenty years and taught mission studies for fifteen years at Redcliffe College, Centre for Mission Training, in the United Kingdom. His discussion is wide-ranging, informed, penetrating, and provocative. Further, his observations constitute a call to deeper engagement, in the name of Christ and in the spirit of the in-breaking Kingdom of God, with the hopes, sorrows, and needs of the world which God made and loves and in which we live.


EMQ, Vol. 46, No. 4, pp. 495-496. Copyright  © 2010 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS).  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.


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