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Frontier Dynamics: Reflections on Evangelical and Tablighi Missions in Central Asia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 January 2021

Mathijs Pelkmans*
Anthropology, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK


Missionaries have flocked to the Kyrgyz Republic ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Evangelical-Pentecostal and Tablighi missions have been particularly active on what they conceive of as a fertile post-atheist frontier. But as these missions project their message of truth onto the frontier, the dangers of the frontier may overwhelm them. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork amongst foreign and local Tablighis and evangelical-Pentecostals, this article formulates an analytic of the frontier that highlights the affective and relational characteristics of missionary activities and their effects. This analytic explains why and how missionaries are attracted to the frontier, as well as some of the successes and failures of their expansionist efforts. In doing so, the article reveals the potency of instability, a feature that is particularly evident in missionary work, but also resonates with other frontier situations.

Religious Conversion at the Frontier
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Society for the Comparative Study of Society and History

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