Universität Erfurt

Projekt von Dr. Onenkala

Knowledge Production in Pietist Transcultural Networks, 1707-1711

This research project looks at how the Pietist missionaries Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Pluetschau adapted and indigenised themselves with the locals while maintaining close networking relationships with their friends and patronisers in Europe. Due to the limitations of hand-written letters, access to the knowledge of the East was naturally limited to a small section of people in Europe that received letters from these missionaries directly. However, this knowledge was multiplied and spread by means of referencing and summarising these letters through Pietist networks across Europe. This indirect path of communication poses some interesting questions that go beyond the content of the actual letters from the missionaries, but focuses on the reception and reproduction of this knowledge by different nodes within these networks. Previous research showed that the Jesuit Missionaries in India wrote their letters almost exclusively to their centre in Rome, usually with the intention of glorifying their deeds to match the expectations that were put towards them. Studying the Pietist communication networks can reveal how the different organisational structure impacted the production of knowledge on India and the Mission. The letters that referenced and re-referenced the letters from India open the perfect opportunity to understand this process of knowledge production from within the network itself.
The research specifically wants to trace the changing relations between colony and centre, between political and religious actors and between the producers and recipients of these letters. These letters are seen both as an effect and agent of political changes in the relation between the world societies, by defining knowledge about India and by establishing links between the far off places in India with Europe long before the emerging power India has entered the global scene within the recent wave of globalisation.


Dr. Onenkala received her Doctorate from JNU, New Delhi, in 2016, where she also completed her MA and MPhil. Her thesis focused on the networks of the Jesuits in the 16th-18th century India, and how they used different methods and strategies to convert the locals to Christianity. Currently, she expands her studies to include other Christian missionaries in early modern India. In Gotha, she will study on the German Pietist missionaries who went to India and how their knowledge about the region travelled through European Pietist networks. In the course of her studies, she has received the Erasmus Mundus Scholarship and Junior Research Fellowship from the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR). Dr. Onenkala is currently on a leave from her teaching position at JMC, Mokokchung, India, where she has been teaching History to graduate level students since 2015.



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