by Marshall Poe
The transmission of a religion closely connected to a particular culture into a very different religious and cultural environment is a difficult act of translation in which a balance must be struck between remaining true to doctrine while understanding and accommodating cultural difference. Members of the Society of Jesus were engaged in a series of such projects in Asia in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This already difficult task was made more complex by the need to maintain unity and discipline among individual Jesuits when travel was dangerous and time consuming and letters might take years to reach their destinations. In his masterful book, The Visitor: Andre Palmeiro and the Jesuits in Asia (Harvard University Press, 2014), Liam Brockey explores these issues through a study of the life of Andre Palmeiro, who traveled throughout Asia settling disputes over complex questions of belief, practice, and ritual. This informative work is not only a biography, as Brockey skillfully uses the career of Palmeiro to complicate the story of the Jesuits in Asia, for instance, showing that national origin was not the main factor determining how much or how little individual Jesuits approved of an "accomodationist" approach. This book is highly recommended, and scholars, graduate students, and those interested in issues of both mission history and the problem of translation will find it well worth reading.