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Walsh, Ellen (2008) "ADVANCING THE KINGDOM": MISSIONARIES AND AMERICANIZATION IN PUERTO RICO, 1898-1930s. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines the role of Protestant missionaries in Americanizing Puerto Rico from 1898 into the 1930s. It contends that Americanization was a dynamic, contingent, multi-directional, and contradictory process that had unintended consequences. These included the development of insular nationalism and Puerto Ricans' employment of Americanization's liberal ideology to make claims against the missionary establishment and the colonial state. Demonstrating that Protestants functioned as an advance guard for the colonial state in the areas of education and health care, it nevertheless argues that many missionaries began to question and then sharply criticized the entire civilizing project because of its harmful effects on most Puerto Ricans' living and working conditions and on the island's natural environment. It also argues that, in addition to its disciplinary aspects, the missionary project had emancipatory effects, including an expansion of the public sphere in terms of content and participation and the introduction of new social and occupational roles for women.By focusing on relations between non-elite actors, this dissertation contributes to understanding how imperial relations were constructed on the ground. Though sharing fundamental goals with the colonial state, missionaries, unlike colonial officials, spoke Spanish and interacted with Puerto Ricans of all classes. Additionally, women missionaries played an active, highly visible role in this civilizing venture. This study examines missionary reform efforts and Puerto Rican responses to them, paying particular attention to the ways that missionary and local understandings of race, class, and gender shaped the outcomes of those efforts. It argues that local social and material conditions, ideologies, and practices significantly shaped missionaries' methods and accomplishments or failures. Additionally, it argues the need for carefully historicizing Americanization, for those local actors and conditions were undergoing radical, precipitous changes. Using a case study, for example, it shows how local and metropolitan ideologies of white racial superiority combined to first include and later exclude Afro Puerto Rican women from nursing education. It also argues that some Puerto Ricans embraced the civilizing mission because they, too, were modernizers and advocates of pre-existing reform agendas constructed by Puerto Ricans such as Eugenia María de Hostos.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee Chairde la Fuente, Alejandrofuente2@pitt.eduFUENTE2
Committee MemberAndrews, George Reidreid1@pitt.eduREID1
Committee MemberBlee, Kathleen Mkblee@pitt.eduKBLEE
Committee MemberRediker, Marcusred1@pitt.eduRED1
Committee MemberGreenwald, Maurinegreenwal@pitt.eduGREENWAL
Date: 16 June 2008
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 10 April 2008
Approval Date: 16 June 2008
Submission Date: 25 April 2008
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Colonization; Education; Gender; Imperialism; Latin American history; Missionaries; politics; Protestants; Puerto Rican; Puerto Rican history; Puerto Rico; Nursing; U.S.-Latin American relations; Americanization
Other ID:, etd-04252008-084303
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:42
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:42


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