Margins of Faith: Dalit and Tribal Christianity in India


Edited by: Rowena Robinson & Joseph Marianus Kujur

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    Putting together a volume like this always promises to be a stressful experience, but perhaps this particular one is the exception to that rule. Though it has been long in the making, as is with all edited ventures, it has been a pleasant experience throughout. Marianus and I first spoke about the project around three years ago. Thanks to the Internet and electronic mail, we carried on the collaboration, though we met just a few times the whole duration. Both of us are social anthropologists, interested in religion and both, independently, felt that (a) Dalit and tribal Christianity are not adequately treated in the literature and, (b) they are independent expressions of faith but were marginalized by mainstream Christianity, regardless of denomination. These two initial thoughts became the framework for the proposal that we submitted to Sage.

    Dalit and tribal Christianity have generally been constituted negatively. They are characterized more by their deficiencies in relation to the dominant framework, which is elite and Brahminical. We wanted the chapters in this volume to represent the range of contemporary Christian practices and beliefs among different Dalit and tribal communities from different parts of the country. The authors look at what are Dalit and tribal Christianities, rather than at what they are not and what they, presumably, lack.

    We are deeply grateful to the authors, who have written wonderful pieces for the volume, based largely on original fieldwork, and have also been immensely cooperative and accommodative of deadlines and the associated imperatives of a work of academic collaboration. We would like to place on record that Professor Selva J. Raj had agreed to write for the volume but tragically passed away before he could do so. It is, indeed, a loss for us and for the academic world as a whole; the depth of Professor Raj's knowledge about Christianity in India was profound and he leaves a gap hard to fill.

    Marianus would like to express his sincere gratitude to Professor Virginius Xaxa for his continuous support. He is also thankful to the people of Mandar in the Ranchi district of Jharkhand for helping him with his field research. He would like to dedicate the volume to his mother Regina and dad late Joachim for inspiring him to be what he is today.

    We jointly convey our appreciation to our editors at SAGE who, with their customary courtesy, patience and efficiency, make publishing a pleasure.

    Joseph MarianusKujur

    New Delhi

    November 2009

  • About the Editors and Contributors

    Rowena Robinson is currently Professor at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University and has taught at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India for over ten years. She is the author of Conversion, Continuity and Change: Lived Christianity in southern Goa (1998), Christians of India (2003) and Tremors of Violence: Muslim Survivors of Ethnic Strife in Western India (2005). She has edited Themes in the Sociology of Religion (2004) and is co-editor (with Sathianathan Clarke) of Religious Conversion in India: Modes, Motivations and Meanings (2003).

    Joseph Marianus Kujur had his MA in Anthropology from Pune University. He has worked on the theme of religious conversion and tribal identity for his doctorate from the Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University. He was on the staff of Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune, for a few years teaching ‘Tribal Thought’ and ‘Anthropology’ to the students of Philosophy. He also taught ‘Tribal Religions’ at the Regional Theological Centres in Ranchi and Patna. For the last five years he headed the Department of Tribal & Dalit Studies at Indian Social Institute, New Delhi. He has to his credit five co-edited books and more than thirty research papers in national and international journals and edited volumes. At present he is a Visiting Researcher at the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS), Georgetown University, Washington D.C. and is engaged in a comparative study of the identity formation of the two groups of indigenous peoples in the post-colonial period—one in India and the other in Bolivia.

    Chad M. Bauman is Assistant Professor of Religion at Butler University, in Indianapolis, Indiana. He conducts research on Hindu-Christian interactions in the colonial and post-colonial periods. His book, Christian Identity and Dalit Religion in Hindu India, 1868–1947 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008) was named Best Book in Hindu-Christian Studies, 2006–2008, by the Society for Hindu-Christian Studies.

    Lakshmi Bhatia is an Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology, Aditi Mahavidyalaya, University of Delhi. With a doctoral degree in Sociology from the Delhi School of Economics, for the past few years she has been associated with the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla as a Teacher-Associate. Dr Bhatia is the author of a book titled, Schooling and Society in Changing Mizoram (under the Series on Societies in Transition in North-East India, Routledge India, forthcoming). Her areas of interest are cultural politics, sociology of education, gender and peace studies especially with reference to the much neglected North-East India. She is currently engaged in the study of the middle class in India's North-East.

    Peggy Froerer is a Lecturer in anthropology at Brunel University. Her current interests include ethnicity and nationalism, education and schooling, childhood and learning, and illness and healing. Her first monograph, Religious Division and Social Conflict: The Emergence of Hindu Nationalism in a Central Indian Tribal Community, was published by Social Science Press (New Delhi) and Berghahn (London). She is currently working on her second monograph on childhood, education and social mobility in central India.

    Jose Kalapura, currently Professor of History, St. Xavier's College, Patna, was formerly Director of Xavier Institute of Social Research (XISR), a centre for research, development, training and action, at Patna. After his doctoral studies in New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, he undertook several research programmes at XISR some of which were published as Bihar Human Rights Documentary Study Series (six books) and Bihar Subaltern Study Series (four books). He has twelve books to his credit (edited or compiled or authored collaboratively) and has over fifty-five research articles published in books or journals. He has designed two Certificate Courses (one for Patna University and another for Nalanda Open University, NOU), both at Patna. His general interest in social sciences aside, his specialization has been in History especially History of the Christian communities in India. He has written three text-books on Christianity for NOU. Currently he is the Executive Editor of the bi-annual journal, Indian Church History Review, published by the Church History Association of India. He was twice awarded (in 2005 and 2007) the I. G. Khan Memorial Prize for the Best Paper in History of Science by the Indian History Congress.

    Lancy Lobo is the Director, Centre for Culture and Development, Vadodara. Earlier, he also served as Director, Centre for Social Studies, Surat. He has conducted extensive studies on Dalits, tribes, OBCs and minorities in rural and urban Gujarat. He has authored six books and contributed several articles to professional journals. He was an International Fellow at the Woodstock Theological Centre, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. during 1999–2000 during which he worked on Globalisation, Hindu Nationalism and Christians in India. He is now working on degradation of forests and its impact on tribals of Gujarat.

    Ashok Kumar M. is Doctoral student in Sociology, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Bombay. His area of interest is Sociology of Religion, Caste and Christianity in India.

    S.M. Michael is Professor in Cultural Anthropology at the Department of Sociology, University of Mumbai. He was the previous Director of Institute of Indian Culture, Mumbai. He is also the author of several books and articles. His edited book Dalits in Modern India: Vision and Values was a best seller of Sage Publications for the year 2000.

    David Mosse is Professor of Social Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. He is the author of The Rule of Water: Statecraft, Ecology and Collective Action in South India (2003), and Cultivating Development: An Ethnography of Aid Policy and Practice (2005). His recent edited collections include The Aid Effect: Giving and Governing in International Development (with D. Lewis, 2005), Development Brokers and Translators: The Ethnography of Aid and Agencies (with D. Lewis, 2006).

    Mathew N. Schmalz received his Ph.D. in history of religions from the University of Chicago. He is an associate professor of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross, where he also serves as Director of the College Honors Program. His research focuses on religion and politics in South Asia and Global Catholicism. With Peter Gottschalk, he is co-editor of Engaging South Asian Religions: Boundaries, Appropriations and Resistances (State University of New York Press, forthcoming). Also with Peter Gottschalk, he has developed the ethnographic teaching website ‘Arampur: A Virtual Indian Village on the World Wide Web’ (

    John C.B. Webster serves as a Trustee of the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He taught History at Baring Union Christian College and Guru Nanak Dev University, Punjab, and at the United Theological College, Bangalore. He has written extensively on Dalit Christians, his best known works being Religion and Dalit Liberation: An Examination of Perspectives (2nd ed., 2002), and The Dalit Christians: A History (3rd ed., 2009).

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