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DFG Project "Independent Catholic Movements"

2017–2020, Project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG): Independent Catholic Movements in Late 19th and Early 20th Century Asia. The "Independent Catholics of India, Goa, and Ceylon" and the "Iglesia Filipina Independiente" in the Context of Religious, Political, and Social Movements of Emancipation in Colonial Modernity.

The project is concerned with a comparative analysis of two Rome-independent Catholic movements in Asia around 1900 from a religious studies and history of Christianity perspective. The focus lies on the "Iglesia Filipina Independiente" (IFI) which was founded in the Philippines in 1902, shortly after the transfer from Spanish to American colonial administration, as well as on the "Independent Catholics of India, Goa, and Ceylon" which emerged in the late 1880s in reaction to the end of the Portuguese king's patronage over the Catholic bishoprics in Goa and Ceylon. These movements will be analysed in three regards: 1. The connections between religious, political, and social movements of emancipation among the local indigenous-Christian elites; 2. Their transregional and transcontinental contacts with each other and with other Rome-independent Catholic groups in other parts of the world; 3. The way in which their advocates were involved in contemporary discourses on "religion" and attempted to locate themselves and their respective cultural contexts in the universal religious history of mankind. In the development of these two movements many similarities and parallels can be observed. The independence from Rome was in both cases pursued by, on the one hand, a former Roman-Catholic priest - Gregorio Aglipay (1860-1940) in the Philippines and Antonio Francisco Xavier Alvares (1836-1923) in Goa and Ceylon - and on the other hand by lay activists. The two laymen, Isabelo de los Reyes (1864-1938) and Pedro Manuel Lisboa Pinto (1857-1898) were not only religious activists, but also central figures in the founding of local worker's movements. Additionally, they were journalists and publishers and edited the first official periodicals of their new churches. In 1903 there also was a direct exchange of letters between the "Independent Catholics" and the IFI. This connection, as well as additional transregional and transcontinental contacts which have not yet received much scholarly attention, will be explored in detail in this project. Central historical sources for this investigation are not only diverse archival sources but especially the periodicals and other early books and tracts published by the two movements around 1900. The results of the project will be presented in two books and four journal articles. In this way the project contributes to research into the history of mission-independent Christian movements in late 19th and early 20th century Asia. By focusing on two Catholic colonial contexts it will also provide new insights regarding current debates in religious studies about the globalization of the disourse of "religion" which are too often focused exclusively on Protestant missionary history.

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