Imperial Fault Lines: Christianity and Colonial Power in India, 1818-1940

Article excerpt

Imperial Fault Lines: Christianity and Colonial Power in India, 1818-1940.

By Jeffrey Cox. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford Univ. Press, 2002. Pp. ix, 357. $55.

The subtitle is misleading. The author really tells of encounters in Punjab, not all of India. In the Punjab, there had been no Christians before the advent of British imperial rule in the 1840s. As British and American missionaries spread out from Delhi and established institutions in close cooperation with Indians, preconceived notions broke down. Since two-thirds of the missionaries were women, dilemmas over gender as well as race brought conflicts. Commitments to universal Christian claims clashed with local realities and imperial privileges. Efforts to build multiracial institutions on principles of equality were contradicted by the benefits of social hierarchy within the imperial system. Encounters with Indians, therefore, could be extremely complex, mingling affection and intimacy with affront and betrayal. Compelled to respond to circumstances not of their own making, missionaries had to compromise and to negotiate-with Indian Christians, officials, local critics, and non-Christian patients, students, and staff at the influential hospitals, schools, and colleges they hadfounded. Upper-class, university educated, and ordained clergy wanting to influence Hindu and Muslim gentry found themselves striving for the rights of the oppressed and stigmatized, landless laborers and "untouchables," in the villages ruled over by that gentry. …