Encountering Modernity: Christianity in East Asia and Asian America, edited by David K. Yoo and Albert Park (Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai’i Press, 2014).
The story of Catholicism and Protestantism in China, Japan, and Korea has been told in great detail. The existing literature is especially rich in documenting church and missionary activities as well as how varied regions and cultures have translated Christian ideas and practices. Less evident, however, are studies that contextualize Christianity within the larger economic, political, social, and cultural developments in each of the three countries and its diasporas. The contributors to Encountering Modernity address such concerns and collectively provide insights into Christianity’s role in the development of East Asia and as it took shape among East Asians in the United States.
The work brings together studies of Christianity in China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan and its diasporas to expand the field through new angles of vision and interpretation. Its mode of analysis not only results in a deeper understanding of Christianity, but also produces more informed and nuanced histories of East Asian countries that take seriously the structures and sensibilities of religion—broadly understood and within a national and transnational context. It critically investigates how Protestant Christianity was negotiated and interpreted by individuals in Korea, China (with a brief look at Taiwan), and Japan starting in the nineteenth century as all three countries became incorporated into the global economy and the international nation-state system anchored by the West. People in East Asia from various walks of life studied and, in some cases, embraced principles of Christianity as a way to frame and make meaningful the economic, political, and social changes they experienced because of modernity.
Encountering Modernity makes a significant contribution by moving beyond issues of missiology and church history to ask how Christianity represented an encounter with modernity that set into motion tremendous changes throughout East Asia and in transnational diasporic communities in the United States.