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Eugenio Menegon


Panel: Minorities, Pluralism, Law – Wednesday, January 20 (11am -1pm PST // 2pm -4pm EST)
Eugenio Menegon photo

Eugenio Menegon is an Associate Professor in History at Boston University. He has written about Christian missions to China in the early modern period, and particularly on the ways in which Christianity became a local religion with its own forms specifically in the southeastern region. In his book, Ancestors, Virgins and Friars: Christianity as  a Local Religion (2009) Menegon shows how Christian converts and their descendents embraced the religion and incorporated it into their existing social relations. His chapter on the Chinese Rites controversy among Jesuit and Dominican missionaries in the seventeenth century shows how local Chinese, particularly in Fuan, responded to these theological debates in practice. He shows that Dominicans who objected to the Chinese ritual sacrifice to ancestors could not simply rely on coercion to change their practices. Rather, he argues, Chinese in Fuan largely abandoned many of their forms of ancestor worship because within a generation they embraced Catholic doctrines of salvation and the intercessory prayer for the dead that accompanied it. In this way, their ritual practices changed in response to Papal decree, but in part because they could incorporate alternatives. 

Menegon has also written a recent article, “Interlopers at the Fringes of Empire: The Procurators of the Propaganda Fide Papal Congregation in Canton and Macao, 1700–1823,” in which he describes how missionaries to China could use commercial networks and intermediary “procurators” to subvert formal prohibitions on Christian missions. This shows local-specific opportunities for Christian missionaries to incorporate themselves into the region.

Example of published work:

Eugenio Menegon, Ancestors, Virgins, & Friars: Christianity as a Local Religion in Late Imperial China (Harvard University Press, 2009); Filial Piety, Ancestral Rituals, and Salvation