Recent approaches in global history and postcolonial studies have pointed to global aspects of colonialism and suggested that the history of colonialism should not be described just as a unidirectional history of power, because the reverberations of colonialism within the metropolis were also important. If we reflect further, we might ask not only if the metropolis and the colonies were entangled, but also if different colonial contexts had connections to one another. Pursuing this in the case of missionary activities, Rebekka Habermas recently demanded that scholars connect missionary history and global history so as to examine the global entanglements of the mission. She drew attention to missionary societies’ active on a global scale. It stands to reason that missionary societies, as global actors, pursued similar politics in different regions and, therefore, different regions and contexts were thereby connected. But is it possible to show direct entanglements between individual mission contexts? Can we explain certain practices and discourses in colonial situations better if we look at other regional contexts?
In testing these questions, the case of the so-called “emigrant mission” (Auswanderermission), directed at Germans emigrants to Brazil by a sister organisation of the Protestant Rhenish Missionary Society, is instructive. Strangely, Habermas mentioned neither the Americas nor the emigrant mission when she proposed the analysis of global entanglements of the mission, as if there had been no missionary activities in the Americas. But it is exactly this kind of entanglement that seems most interesting, the entanglement between regions with apparently different histories. This paper tries to address this lacuna by asking if the history of the emigrant mission in Brazil can be linked with “normal” missionary contexts of, for example, missions directed at non-Europeans, in order to understand why certain discourses were circulating in Brazil. In this instance, the former German colony of Southwest Africa and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Nias serve as classical missionary examples, as the Rhenish Missionary Society was very active in these regions. In considering relations between German emigrants in Brazil, the German colony in Africa, and the German mission in a Dutch colony, one must remember that Brazil, although it figured very prominently in German colonial debates of the nineteenth century, was not a formal German colony.