This paper examines the proliferation of Christian denominations among the small Tangsa community in Northeast India. While resentment over the language chosen by the Baptist Church for the official Tangsa Bible triggered the initial fissures, the recent arrival of Pentecostal and charismatic churches has brought about further divisions. These divisions have not helped the cause of pan-Tangsa unity. However, in the everyday lives of most Tangsa, it is the Christian/non-Christian divide that is more relevant. Hence, the Tangsa situation is different from that of the neighbouring Mizo and Naga communities, in which Christianity has become a defining part of their identities.
Abstract: Anti-Christian violence in India has increased dramatically since the late 1990s, and there are now, on average, several hundred attacks on Christians every year. In this violence, Pentecostals are disproportionately targeted. This article begins by providing the historical and political context for anti-Christian violence, and then seeks to account for the disproportionate targeting of Pentecostals. While there are certain obvious factors, such as the more assertive evangelizing of Pentecostals (and other Evangelicals) vis-à-vis mainstream Christian groups, the article explores and highlights several less obvious factors, and in particular the peculiar social, theological, ecclesiastical and liturgical aspects of Pentecostalism that make this form of Christianity particularly objectionable to Hindu nationalists, as well – importantly – as to many mainstream and upper-caste/upper-class Indian Christians.
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 reflecting on a sharp scholarly exchange at a conference, this article explores issues of authority, representation, and offense in global Catholic and South Asian Studies. Focusing on the act of foot washing by Dalit Catholics, the article examines how scholarly offense is linked to particular claims of representational authority. The article also puts this discussion within the context of contemporary debates about Western portrayals of Indian culture and society.
Abstract: This article presents a feminist analysis of patriarchy persisting in Catholicism of the Syro-Malabar rite in Kerala. The article specifically considers the impact of charismatic Catholicism on women of the Syro-Malabar rite and argues that it is important to interrogate this new face of religiosity in order to fully understand how certain rituals are allowed to change and be fluid, while others, especially concerning female sexuality, are enshrined as “tradition” which often restricts the parameters for women’s empowerment and may reinforce caste and patriarchal hegemonies preventing feminist solidarity across different religious- and caste-based groups.
Abstract: This article examines three Catholic home shrines in a Dalit community in North Indian and argues that it is misleading to think that home shrines and other collections of material objects are somehow static conveyors of meaning. “Meaning” can mean many things or nothing at all, depending upon the terms we are using and the scholarly methods we deploy. The crucial aspect of Dalit Catholic home shrines is that they are literally open to interpretation and reinterpretation, to touching and being touched. Their significance—their meaning—depends not on decoding their structure or symbolic logic, but interacting with them as part of a larger network of human and material connections and interpenetrations.
Abstract: This essay discusses the challenges faced by Indian Catholicism, particularly as it seeks to adapt to and in contemporary, post-colonial India through the process or program of what is called inculturation, a self-conscious program of adaptation to Indian religion and culture. Since Indian Catholicism is constituted by so many irreducible persons-in-relation, the article focuses on the life of the Catholic priest, Swami Ishwar Prasad in whose life we may chart something of the inculturation movement and the Catholic tradition as it is found in North India region, in one rather long and rich lifetime connecting two centuries. The article seeks to show not only how inculturation is understood by one of its chief Indian architects, but also how and why it came to be so central to one person’s life’s work.
Abstract: This article considers whether Indian Christianity can be said to have a distinctive ecological vision. The first two parts of the article examine Christian environmentalism in two native forms of Indian Christianity: Tamil Christianity and Tribal Christianity. Continuing with the theme of conformity to the local culture—though of the elite—the third part of the article investigates how Christian Ashrams function as dynamic centers for ecological praxis. The last part of the article considers how contemporary Indian Christian communities can respond to the ecological challenges confronting them.
Abstract: This article combines ethnographic description of the practices of Hindu and Christian visitors of the St. Antony Shrine in Chennai with the observation that this material cannot be understood using the standard world religions paradigm that essentializes Christianity as exclusivistic. Drawing upon the visual and material culture of the shrine in light of premodern and Vatican II templates for inculturation and the negotiation of religious difference, the article highlights overlap between Tamil Hinduism and the Tamil Popular Catholicism of the site to argue that the beliefs and practices documented should inform descriptive and normative accounts of Catholic Christianity. Because Tamil Catholicism functions more as a communal designation than an ideological identity, and overlaps in practice with Tamil Hinduism and Tamil Islam, individuals form a Catholic identity which persists no matter which beliefs or practices they share in common with Hindu or Muslim neighbors or their active participation in others’ worship.
Publisher’s Description: To Be Cared For offers a unique view into the conceptual and moral world of slum-bound Dalits (“untouchables”) in the South Indian city of Chennai. Focusing on the decision by many women to embrace locally specific forms of Pentecostal Christianity, Nathaniel Roberts challenges dominant anthropological understandings of religion as a matter of culture and identity, as well as Indian nationalist narratives of Christianity as a “foreign” ideology that disrupts local communities. Far from being a divisive force, conversion integrates the slum community—Christians and Hindus alike—by addressing hidden moral fault lines that subtly pit residents against one another in a national context that renders Dalits outsiders in their own land.