Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences
BRINFAITH Religion and Empire Lecture Series
History Written in Advance: The Temporal Politics of Learning Mandarin for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Zambia
Speaker: Mr. Justin Haruyama (University of California, Davis)
Date/Time: September 23, 2021, 1:00 pm (HK Time)
Register now: https://bit.ly/brinfaith923
Over the last decade, there have been a proliferating number of Mandarin-language Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations in Zambia. These congregations are almost exclusively composed of local Zambians who have learned Mandarin as a second language, and count few to no ethnic Chinese congregants among their number. Nevertheless, these congregations conduct their meetings exclusively in Mandarin, and their Zambian congregants have attained a very high degree of fluency in Mandarin. Though ostensibly formed for the purpose of evangelizing to Zambia’s rapidly growing Chinese migrant community, members of the congregation emphasize that the apparent lack of Chinese converts is no failure at all. Regardless of the outcome of their efforts, what is important is that their intense evangelizing is part of an ongoing fulfillment of their obligations to Jehovah God. Thus, the relations between these Witnesses and the Chinese they proselytize to are not dialogic but triangular. Their evangelizing efforts represent a challenge to secular time: while secular portrayals of Chinese expatriates “buying up” Zambia rest upon teleological assumptions of economic and political development, these congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses act upon a temporal horizon in which biblical truths must be quickly spread before the rapidly approaching dissolution of the current system of things.
About the Speaker
Justin Haruyama is a Ph.D. candidate in cultural anthropology at University of California, Davis. His research examines the controversial presence of Chinese migrants in Africa today, with a focus on social interactions between Chinese expatriate and local Zambian communities as they come to interact in contexts of work and religion in southern Zambia.
The event is organized by the CRF Project “Infrastructures of Faith: Religious Mobilities on the Belt and Road [BRINFAITH]” (RGC CRF HKU C7052-18G), which is hosted by the ASIAR - Asian Religious Connections Research Cluster in HKIHSS.
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