Longkumer, Arkotong. 2017. “The power of persuasion: Hindutva, Christianity, and the discourse of religion and culture in Northeast India” Religion 47(2): 203-227.
Abstract: The paper will examine the intersection between Sangh Parivar activities, Christianity, and indigenous religions in relation to the state of Nagaland. I will argue that the discourse of ‘religion and culture’ is used strategically by Sangh Parivar activists to assimilate disparate tribal groups and to envision a Hindu nation. In particular, I will show how Sangh activists attempt to encapsulate Christianity within the larger territorial and civilisational space of Hindutva (Hinduness). In this process, the idea of Hindutva is visualised as a nationalist concept, not a theocratic or religious one [Cohen 2002 “Why Study Indian Buddhism?” In The Invention of Religion, edited by Derek Peterson and Darren Walholf. Rutgers: Rutgers University Press, 26]. I will argue that the boundaries between Hindutva as cultural nationalism and its religious underpinnings are usefully maintained in the context of Nagaland because they allow Sangh activists to reconstitute the limits of Christianity and incorporate it into Hindu civilisation on their own terms.
Abstract: In the 16th and 17th centuries, Jesuit missionaries began to translate Christian doctrine and mythology into Indian languages. Most critical became the question how the very name(s) of God and gods can be translated. Artfully composed texts known as Christian Purāṇas borrowed from the religious terminology and literary styles of Indian devotional literature and are praised today for mediating between the cultures of Christians and Hindus (the latter called ‘gentiles’ in the contemporary sources). At the same time, the Portuguese-Catholic regime in India launched a ruthless iconoclastic campaign against the culture of the Indian gentiles, destroying their temples and images and denigrating their allegedly ‘false gods.’ Against this background, the article addresses the questions of what the relation was between translation and violence; how hermeneutics and destruction coexisted; and how the idea that the translations facilitated the modern emergence of religious pluralism is to be qualified.
Excerpt: “Christianity in India has a long, complex and varied history. It accounts for 24,080,016 or 2.3 percent of the total population and is the second largest minority religion in India. Two-thirds of this population is Roman Catholic and almost 14 million Christians are Dalits ….In recent years, the rhetoric and violence of a muscular Hindu nationalism have attempted simultaneously to ‘minoritize’ and make foreign both Christianity and Islam in opposition to an idea Hindu nation ….”
“Neither self-transformation or socio-economic gain fully motivates conversion, and both factors work differently according to the context. Conversion, then, can be a ‘process of dissent’ or ‘tool’ of dissent rather than an ‘end result’ … Likewise, Catholicism can be strategically used within a ‘pragmatic ideology’ as ‘subversive marginality’ …. We have suggested that Catholicism neither was nor is a monolithic religion but is characterized buy a diversity of practices operating at multiple levels across a variety of cultural settings through a range of historical periods. It is a form of identity as well as spirituality for many of its converts, operating in an immensely complicated political field and contributing to ongoing structural transformation and the every-changing cultural mosaic of India.”
Description (from publisher): In Bringing the Sacred Down to Earth, Corinne Dempsey offers a comparative study of Hindu and Christian, Indian and Euro/American earthbound religious expressions. She argues that official religious, political, and epistemological systems tend to deny sacred access and expression to the general populace, and are abstracted and disembodied in ways that make them irrelevant to if not neglectful of earthly realities. Working at cross purposes with these systems, attending to material needs, conferring sacred access to a wider public, and imbuing land and bodies with sacred meaning and power, are religious frameworks featuring folklore figures, democratizing theologies, newly sanctified land, and extraordinary human abilities. Some scholars will see Dempsey’s juxtapositions of Hindu and Christian religious dynamics, many of which exist on opposite sides of the globe, as a leap into a disciplinary minefield. Many have argued for decades that comparison is an outmoded, politically troubled approach to the human sciences. More recently opponents, represented by a growing number of religion scholars, are ”writing back” in comparison’s defense, asserting the merits of a readjusted, carefully contextualized, new comparativism. But, says Dempsey, the inestimable advantages of the comparative method described by religion scholars and performed in this book are disciplinary as well as ethical. As demonstrated in this stimulating book, the process of comparison can shed light on angles and contours otherwise obscured and perform the important work of bridging human contingencies and perception across religious, cultural, and disciplinary divides.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Adventures and Misadventures in Comparison
Chapter 1: The Suffering Indian Nun and the Wandering (Drunken) Irish Priest: Orientalism and Celticism Unplugged
Chapter 2: Arguing Equal Access to an Earthly Sacred: Christian and Hindu Theologies of Liberation
Chapter 3: Making and Staking Sacred Terrain: Rajneeshee and Diaspora Hindu Settlers and Unsettlers
Chapter 4: Embodying the Extraordinary in Iceland and India and the Difference Spirits Make
Postscript: Unanticipated Adventures in Ritualized Ethnography