In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Missionization

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies
  • Films
  • Journals

Anthropology Missionization
James S. Bielo
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 June 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 June 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0126


Missionization is a term that references a historical process of religious evangelism. The term most often refers to Christian missionaries, and this usage is reflected in the anthropology of missionization, which has focused primarily on Christianity (the term has been deployed in association with Muslim and Mormon evangelisms as well; however, this review focuses on Christian missionization). As a process, missionization often intersects with a wide range of cross-cultural encounters, including transnationalism, colonialism, nation-state and community development, linguistic translation, religious conversion, and cultural change in general. The anthropological study of missionization includes descriptive and critical perspectives and traverses numerous subfields, from the anthropology of religion to linguistic, economic, political, and legal anthropology, gender, and postcolonial studies, and globalization. The overwhelming majority of missionization studies in anthropology focus on Western missionaries engaging non-Western, often indigenous, populations.


Several bibliographies and e-bibliographies are helpful for anyone researching or designing a course on missionization. Humboldt 2002, Hiebert and Thomas 2001, and the Southern Nazarene University Film Archive cover a range of resources, from anthropological field studies to critical and theoretical essays on missiology, mission histories, and documentary and fictionalized films. Students, researchers, and teachers should also reference the Oxford Bibliographies in the Atlantic History article Missionaries.

  • Hiebert, Paul G., and Norman E. Thomas. 2001. Selected annotated bibliography on missiology: Missions-social aspects. Missiology: An International Review 29.3: 393–397.

    Annotated bibliography of missiological, historical, sociological, and anthropological studies of missionization. Contains thirty-five entries under a variety of headings such as New Religious Movements and Urban Mission.

  • Humboldt, Friederike. 2002. Bibliography on women and mission Geneva, Switzerland: WCC Study-Process on Women in Mission.

    Fifty-one-page bibliography of international work focusing on the varied relationships between women and missionization.

  • Southern Nazarene University Film Archive

    Regularly updated comprehensive listing of films about missionization. Of special interest to anthropologists, the archive includes categorizations for cultural anthropology, history of missions, linguistics, and religions of the world.

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