This volume documents the ethnographies of regionally distinct Dalit and tribal Christian communities, raising new arguments pertaining to the autonomy and distinct identity of these communities in adverse social set-ups.
Stressing upon the plurality of identities, the essays reject the idea of determining these exclusively on the basis of religion. They also chart the multiple levels of marginality experienced by both Dalit and tribal Christians and analyze how these groups negotiate their former religious faith and practices with Christianity.
The book is a response to the urgent need for such studies in social science writings brought to the fore by contemporary political challenges and struggles facing these communities in various parts of India.
In the fields of sociology and anthropology it has taken a long while for the worlds and worldviews of tribals, and of Dalits, in particular, to gain centrality of focus. It is true, of course, that tribal ethnographies have been traditional to the discipline of anthropology. Even so, somehow the domain of converted tribes remained peripheral perhaps because anthropologists were so often convinced that tribal religions were damaged in the process of conversion and the real focus should be on these religions and the processes of their decline. As Elwin argued, the missionary and the reformer ‘try very hard to make the aboriginal good: they only succeed in making him dull’ (Rustomji and Elwin 1989). In any case, tribal worldviews have ...