Cultural Mediation: John Eliot’s Errand to the Otherness

Alice Manuela Martins Guimaraes


Abstract -


We pretend to revisit and reexamine some of the intercultural encounters between Protestant missionaries and Native peoples in New England in the seventeenth century.

We intend to redeem the role that missionaries, particularly, John Eliot, played during the British colonization in the New World, mediating two different cultures, focusing on all the inherent process of intercultural communication. We will argue that during the mission to the “otherness” the English missionary, known as the “Apostle to the Indians”, played an outstanding role as a cultural mediator among the natives.

During the British colonization in the New World there were great efforts to educate and evangelize the natives. In addition to the education and training of manpower, the missionaries endeavored in another key role: translating Western and indigenous cultures and mediating them. We will try to understand the extent to which a missionary like John Eliot could ‘mediate’ rather than merely ‘translate’ in order to improve the communication flow.  In this sense, we will explore the income of concepts such as culture, cultural mediation and communication code in the construction of new approaches which allow us to think about the inter-symbolic communication processes.

Yet mediation in the New World was not only about the process of translating, interpreting, educating or evangelizing but was, above all, about the process of regenerating the natives and defending them from the land-hunter colonists.

We will display that Eliot’s errand to the otherness allows us to understand the construction of a native epistemology through the endless task of missionaries who were so committed to proselyting, teaching, educating, protecting the natives’ rights and mediating.




Key words – John Eliot; Cultural mediation; mission; otherness

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