Martha Saxton, Fazak Sheikh, Wendy Ewald, Thomas Keenan – The transformation of this world depends Upon You
Publisher: Steidl, 2014
Hardcover, 240 pages, English
New in seal
The transformation of this world depends on you focuses on two related stories: the missionary vision of Amherst College in its early days and the legacy of that vision in the present. Founded in Massachusetts in 1820, Amherst’s original charter was “to educate pious indigent young men of promising talents and hopeful piety … with a sole view to the Christian ministry.” For more than a century, young Amherst graduates travelled—many with their wives and families—to far-flung destinations including China, Persia, India, the Middle East, Indonesia and Hawaii on a mission to convert the “heathen” races to Protestant Christianity. This book compares their ambitions, fueled by religious zeal, with the approaches and policies of local charitable organizations working in Amherst and its surrounding area today.
In the first part of the book, historian Martha Saxton and photographer Wendy Ewald tell the stories of nine of these early missionaries, based on their research in the Amherst archives, employing photographs, etchings and documents that illustrate their difficult lives. In the second part, photographer Fazal Sheikh worked beyond the college with members of the Amherst and surrounding communities, many of whom had experienced economic and social hardship. Sheikh listened to the stories of immigration and struggle they were eager to tell, made portraits of each of his ten subjects and collected their family photographs. Thomas Keenan, Director of the Human Rights Project at Bard College, provides the book’s introduction, in which he examines the work and attitudes of the early Amherst missionaries in the light of current human rights discourse and practice.