Christians and Public Life in Colonial South India, 1863-1937: Contending with Marginality

Christians and Public Life in Colonial South India, 1863-1937: Contending with Marginality

Christians and Public Life in Colonial South India, 1863-1937: Contending with Marginality

Christians and Public Life in Colonial South India, 1863-1937: Contending with Marginality

Synopsis

This book describes a condition of marginality faced by Catholic and Protestant elites of the Madras Presidency, but argues that this condition was far from inevitable.

Excerpt

This study brings together two threads of personal interest: an interest in the history of Christian movements in India, and an interest in public expressions of religion in the modern world. Existing scholarship has raised important questions about conversion, relationships of Christians (both Catholic and non-Catholic) to indigenous institutions and belief systems, and the precise nature of the missionary encounter with local culture. Secular scholarship is supplemented by a vast amount of theological literature dealing with similar kinds of questions. A prevailing concern in such work is the extent to which expressions of Christianity have become genuinely "Indian, " in spite of relationships they may have had with foreign missionary societies. This study addresses similar dialectics between Christianity and different notions of "Indian-ness." Its main point of departure, however, lies in its attempt to move these dialectics away from the realm of "traditional culture" and into the realm of modern institutions that comprised an evolving "public sphere" in South India. Methods and priorities of cultural anthropologists, theologians or Church historians give way to a different set of lenses, geared toward workings of law, politics, and print media.

How different streams and offshoots of Christianity within the Madras Presidency came under the umbrella of a single "Indian Christian community" is a question that pervades this study. Some scholars have linked this question to the Church Union Movement in South India, an ecumenical project having little to do with secular institutions or communal politics. When questions relating to the Indian Christian community are confined to affairs of ecclesiastical bodies, other sites of identity formation are overlooked. Court cases dealing with the validity of marriage, succession, or rights of converts provide fascinating accounts of how Christians became marginalized from evolving notions of Hindu society. Legal concepts such as "severance, " "desertion, " or "degradation" become powerful metaphors for struggles of Christians within a nation, increasingly defined as "Hindu." The relationship between legal and political processes of severance, however, is more than metaphoric. The difficulty of defining a Christian community in terms of any single body of personal law accounts for the same difficulty of constituting Christians as a separate,

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.