“Heathen” and Race-Making in the Christian World with Kathryn Gin Lum

Professor Kathryn Gin Lum discusses her book, Heathen: Religion and Race in American History. Professor Lum begins by explaining the Doctrine of Discovery and how the colonizers of the Americas imported the idea of the pagan or heathen. Lum describes how Christian missionaries came to understand native people’s relationship to the land, their societies, and religion as corrupt, savage, and unclean—all of which they centered in the definition of the word “heathen.” This linguistic “othering” created a religious and political system that allowed for racialization and subjugation of non-European peoples around the world. Finally, Professor Lum describes how the idea of “the heathen” stays with us today.

Kathryn Gin Lum is Associate Professor of Religious Studies in collaboration with the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity and History (by courtesy) at Stanford University. Her book was published by Harvard University Press in 2022.