By David Mosse
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Extra resources for The Saint in the Banyan Tree: Christianity and Caste Society in India
This contemporary “dalitizing” of Christianity, like Nobili’s Brahmanizing, is, we see, linked to wider political agendas and speaks to international as well local audiences. A N A N T H RO P OL O G Y O F TA M I L C AT HOL IC I S M Through tracing the long historical outworking of the contradictions of a particular Jesuit mission, this book contributes an approach to the anthropology of Christianity. Its object of enquiry—Catholicism—like religion in general, is not approached as a “transhistorical essence” or translocal cultural regime with agency of its own, but as an emergent field of debate and practice, the product of particular regional histories (Asad 1993; 2002, 118).
Of course there are numerous ways to conceive of Christians existing “discontinuously” within cultural continuity. 38 My argument will be that the potential contradictions between the caste collective and individual faith, or an unjust order and Christian equality, was for centuries stabilized by implicit reference to an existing Jesuit-Brahmanical model around which rural Catholics innovated (and priests tolerated) ritual practices that in various ways separated out complementary domains of village social order and Catholic religion.
As the story of the banyan tree of St. James illustrates, the development of a regional cult of saints and sacred geography could not but be informed by indigenous notions of sacred power. Županov (2005) uses the term tropicality (both trope and tropical) to capture the indeterminacy of Catholic conversion in the seventeenth century. She points to an “endless conversion of meanings and relations of things” as preconversion beliefs and practices “returned to weave together and reinterpret Christianity in unpredictable ways” (2005, 25, 27).
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