University of Calgary

Christianity in India: The Anti-Colonial Turn


Christianity in India: the Anti-Colonial Turn presents research on seminal sources to show how and why European travelers, traders, soldiers, and clergy sought out the so-called “Thomas Christians” of South India in medieval and early modern periods and how and why these Indians of pre-colonial Christian heritage did business and prayed with the early Europeans and at times fought against them and their colonial oppression. The story of their fight in the early period of colonialism has mostly gone untold. To tell that story is to alert academics and the broader public to the historical fact of an Eastern Christianity, the colonial dynamics of Western (Latin) and Eastern (Syriac) rites, and the significant impact of both colonial and anti-colonial movements on ancient churches and their associated communities. The book productively complements missionary conversion narratives by highlighting movements and events that were distinctly native and Eastern Christian. Whereas scholarship on the history of the freedom struggle of India has followed James Mill's The History of British India (1817) in acknowledging only a Hindu-Muslim presence as “Indian,” my book inserts the study of the struggle of Indian Christians against Portuguese colonization as the anti-colonial “turn.” Furthermore, it points to the colonial – political, economic, and cultural – bases of what later, in the mid-seventeenth century, became the first major schism in the Thomas Christian church. The book, thus, reviews the colonial beginnings and its impact on matters of consequence in the twentieth and twenty-first century and prompts a re-assessment of the contours of world Christianity. Why was India imagined as Christian in medieval times? Did Vasco da Gama meet vegetarian Christians? What was “nationalist” about an early sixteenth-century Indian Christian leader? Were Indian Christians heretics or simply anti-colonial? Was a “slap in the face” [the sacrament of] Confirmation or colonization? Were the Thomas Christians the first “to run amok”? What was happening: Christianizing or colonizing? Christianity in India: The Anti-colonial Turn invites the reader to consider these and other questions in the face of the other Christian.


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