Laura Rademaker

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Judith Stokes had always hoped to be a missionary linguist and translate the Bible. But on her arrival at Angurugu, the Church Mission Society of Australia (CMS) Aboriginal Mission on Groote Eylandt in the Northern Territory in 1952 as a schoolteacher, she discovered that linguists were not required. By looking at the experiences of Judith Stokes, I shed light on the tensions embedded in the evangelical missionary project in mid-twentieth century Australia. Traditionally evangelicals claimed that global conversion would flow from translating Bibles into local vernaculars. In Australia, however, concerns to integrate Aboriginal people into Australian citizenship through assimilation rendered the traditional evangelical approach problematic. Aboriginal missions were “different” from others, the CMS claimed—so different that some were unsure whether they were even real missions. Stokes' story reveals the contradictions within Australian evangelical communities between their global mission and their commitment to what they envisaged as an anti-racist policy of assimilation. Moreover, her status as a woman translator challenged CMS gendered conventions for Aboriginal missions and conceptions of the missionary vocation.


Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry

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Journal Article

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