Listen to Owen Bennett-Jones discuss the future of opinion polls with Mark Pack

Joseph W. Ho

Feb 2, 2022

Developing Mission

Photography, Filmmaking, and American Missionaries in Modern China

Cornell University Press 2021

Joseph W. Ho’s book Developing Mission: Photography, Filmmaking, and American Missionaries in Modern China (Cornell University Press, 2021) offers a transnational cultural history of US and Chinese communities framed by missionary lenses through time and space―tracing the lives and afterlives of images, cameras, and visual imaginations from before the Second Sino-Japanese War through the first years of the People's Republic of China.

When American Protestant and Catholic missionaries entered interwar China, they did so with cameras in hand. Missions principally aimed at the conversion of souls and the modernization of East Asia, became, by virtue of the still and moving images recorded, quasi-anthropological ventures that shaped popular understandings of and formal foreign policy toward China. Portable photographic technologies changed the very nature of missionary experience, while images that missionaries circulated between China and the United States affected cross-cultural encounters in times of peace and war.

Ho illuminates the centrality of visual practices in the American missionary enterprise in modern China, even as intersecting modernities and changing Sino-US relations radically transformed lives behind and in front of those lenses. In doing so, Developing Mission reconstructs the almost-lost histories of transnational image makers, subjects, and viewers across twentieth-century China and the United States.

Dr. Joseph W. Ho is Assistant Professor of History at Albion College and Center Associate at the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan. In addition to his current book, Dr. Ho is the coeditor of War and Occupation in China: The Letters of an American Missionary from Hangzhou, 1937-1938.

Linshan Jiang is Ph.D. candidate in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research interests are modern and contemporary literature, film, and popular culture in mainland China, Taiwan and Japan; trauma and memory studies; gender and sexuality studies; queer studies; as well as comparative literature and translation studies.

Listen to more episodes on:

Your Host

Linshan Jiang

Linshan Jiang is Ph.D. candidate in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research interests are modern and contemporary literature, film, and popular culture in mainland China, Taiwan and Japan; trauma and memory studies; gender and sexuality studies; queer studies; as well as comparative literature and translation studies.

Learn More

Also Hosted By Linshan Jiang