Scholars acknowledge the role of U.S. missionaries in the expansion of U.S. influence across the Pacific. However, labeling their activities “informal” imperialism underplays their political ramifications. Missionaries were not simply beneficiaries of the state; they actively constructed it. Simultaneously, missionaries participated in the physical and discursive construction of local communities. This article examines the intertwined nature of these two processes—state-extension and place-making—through property disputes in the 1880s between Presbyterian missionaries and the local elite in Jinan, China. This case demonstrates how both state-extension and place-making generated conflicts between a range of Chinese and American actors. These tensions underscore the utility of understanding “place” and “state” not as static constructs but as products of dynamic social interactions.

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