"Kiwis" in the Middle Kingdom: a sociological interpretation of the history of New Zealand missionaries in China from 1877 to 1953 and beyond : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Between 1877 and 1953, 254 men and women went to China as missionaries who were associated with Aotearoa/New Zealand in one way or another. This thesis presents a sociological interpretation of this historical phenomenon using Goffman’s Dramaturgy as a theoretical framework. The dramaturgical narration begins from the “back-stage” of New Zealand as a sending country and then extends to the “front-stage” of China as a mission field. Substantial space is dedicated to a scrutiny of the day-to-day life of “Kiwi” missionaries living in the arena of the “Middle Kingdom”, including adoption of Chinese names, language learning, clothing changes, dietary changes, compound accommodation, itinerant and residential evangelism, medical and educational works, summer retreats, racial and gender dynamics, romance and marriage, child-bearing and child-rearing, and the childhood of “missionary kids”. There were various interludes to their missionary career when their sense of self-identity was heightened and challenged. The change of government in China brought an abrupt end to all missions. Nonetheless, the closing of the “theatre” and the exeunt of the missionary actors/actresses did not bring a full ending to the drama. The researcher tracks the post-China developments of ex-China missionaries in both New Zealand and overseas through a variety of sources to come to the conclusion that the China experiences had a life-long impact on most of these missionaries, and that such impact has extended inter-generationally to their families. Personal interviews have been carried out with 21 available living missionaries and/or their descendants, which provide a unique perspective of missionary lives in China. The researcher’s own subjectivity as a Chinese immigrant who came to the Christian faith in New Zealand also comes into play in the construction of this academic analysis. One crucial element of her subjectivity is her reflection on her aunt’s life-story as an opera actress, running parallel with that of the China missionaries. The historical development of the Chinese immigrant community in New Zealand is interwoven into the story of New Zealanders’ missionary involvements in China at various stages.
New Zealand missionaries, New Zealand missionaries in China, New Zealanders in China, Acculturation, China, Dramaturgy