We offer here the first of two special sections on the theme of "Hymns Beyond the Congregation." Divided into the two sub-themes of “Hymns Beyond the Congregation: Constructions of Identity,” and “Hymns Beyond the Congregation: Legacies of Meaning,” our authors (based in institutions both in the USA and the UK) comprise both early career and senior scholars and come from a range of disciplinary backgrounds in American history, South African colonial history, political history, the history of mission education, and historical musicology. Together, these two special issues will pave the way for facilitating new dialogues between historians, musicologists and congregational studies scholars, inviting fresh perspectives on how hymns have long constituted a powerful genre for community-building that often resists and reframes the hierarchies within which most hymns have hitherto been studied. We also hope that this work encourages the traditional binaries between secular and sacred contexts for hymn singing to be broken down, so that the migration of hymns between church services and secular spaces can also be understood as a largely inevitable societal and cultural process.

Author Biography

Erin Johnson-Williams is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of Music at Durham University. Her research focuses on decolonising the nineteenth century, the imperial legacies of music education, trauma studies, gender and maternity, and biopolitics. Erin is co-editor of Intersectional Encounters in the Nineteenth-Century Archive (2022), Hymns and Constructions of Race: Mobility, Agency, De/Coloniality (forthcoming 2023), and the Oxford Handbook of Music Colonialism (forthcoming 2024). From September 2023, Erin will take up her new role as Lecturer in Music Education and Social Justice at the University of Southampton.

Philip Burnett is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in Music at the University of York, UK, where he is working on a project entitled "Singing from the Same Hymn Sheet". His research examines the hymn repertoire found on mission stations established in Southern and South-Eastern Africa during the 19th century, and the ways in which the musical language of missionary hymns was localised and indigenised. He holds a PhD from the University of Bristol, UK and is co-editor of a forthcoming volume entitled Hymns and Constructions of Race: Mobility, Agency, De/Coloniality.

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