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Stewart, Emily R. (2018) THE GLOBAL REFLEX: DAVID M. STOWE AND AMERICAN ECUMENICAL MISSION IN A POSTCOLONIAL WORLD. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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With implications for historians of American culture and politics, human rights,
Christianity, and transnationalism, this dissertation examines the role of global influences –
especially “Third World” voices, theologies, movements, and postcolonial discourses – on
American Protestant missionaries in the late twentieth century. To expose these influences, this
dissertation examines the missiological and theological work of Protestant missionary,
humanitarian, and mission executive David M. Stowe (1919-2000). Stowe’s experience makes
clear the ways in which international experiences and dialogues placed missionaries in a unique
position to serve as conduits for global influences to circulate back into American theology,
humanitarian concern, and human rights advocacy. In particular, Stowe’s decades-long career
provides a window into the Protestant rearticulation of “mission” to include humanitarian causes
and human rights advocacy in the late 20th century, as manifested in the theological language he
and his cohort used to describe and defend human rights as well as in their activism for justicerelated causes both in America and abroad. I hope to demonstrate that human rights conventions
were given significant impetus and support from the concern for socio-economic justice,
ecology, and other “Third World” issues shown by American religionists like Stowe. And rather
than relegate this historical (and ongoing) engagement with human rights concepts by religious
actors to a privatized sphere, I argue that contemporary human rights discourse would benefit
from a better understanding of the effects of missionary experience on the historical development
of humanitarianism. Beyond discursive value, moreover, the implementation of humanitarian
and human rights concepts would also enjoy practical benefits from a familiarity with American
Protestantism’s struggle to address twentieth-century anti-colonial critiques. In demonstrating
these benefits by drawing connections between missionary experience and the emergence of
American humanitarianism and human rights discourse, this research is ultimately aimed at
bridging gaps between national and global, the West and the “rest,” and religious and secular


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Stewart, Emily R.ems171@pitt.eduems1710000-0003-4189-4883
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairKane,
Committee MemberHalle,
Committee MemberShear,
Committee MemberKranson,
Date: 28 June 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 15 December 2017
Approval Date: 28 June 2018
Submission Date: 11 April 2018
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 260
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Religion (Cooperative Program in the study of)
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: American History, Religious History, Religious Studies, Biographies, American Protestantism, Missionaries, Transnationalism, Third World, Global South, Global Christianity, Postcolonial, human rights, humanitarianism, holistic mission
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2018 19:36
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2018 19:36


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