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In Search of a Touchable Body: Christian Mission and Dalit Conversions

Department of English, Sri Aravinda Sathajayanthi Government Degree College, Narayanapuram, Andhra Pradesh 534007, India
Religions 2019, 10(12), 644; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10120644
Received: 31 August 2019 / Revised: 16 October 2019 / Accepted: 18 November 2019 / Published: 21 November 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dalits and Religion: Ambiguity, Tension, Diversity and Vitality)
This paper significantly wishes to unpack the social and cultural impact of the mass religious conversion movements in Rayalaseema society with specific reference to Dalits during the period 1850 to 1880. This paper will use the archival material such as missionary records, magazines, pamphlets, and books written by missionaries; further, it will also utilize oral interviews collected from the field. The mass conversion movements established a relationship between Dalits and missionaries and brought them together. In their efforts to create a new Christian community of Dalit converts, missionaries had interacted with Dalits, shared meal with them, stayed with them and transformed forbidden and “polluted” ghettos into social spaces. The present paper argues that the practices of the missionaries were liberating and humanizing for Dalits. It will examine how these practices led to unintended consequences. It needs to be remembered that the missionaries’ aim was not to abolish caste but to develop Christianity. How did the missionaries contribute to social interaction and build a spirit of solidarity among the Dalit converts? Based on specific situations, incidents, and examples recorded in the missionary archives and oral interviews, the article observes that community conversion movements destabilized the caste structure and brought significant changes in the social life of Dalits in colonial Rayalaseema. View Full-Text
Keywords: caste; Christianity; Dalits; mass conversion movements; Caste; missionaries; social equality; untouchability caste; Christianity; Dalits; mass conversion movements; Caste; missionaries; social equality; untouchability
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Chandra Sekhar, C. In Search of a Touchable Body: Christian Mission and Dalit Conversions. Religions 2019, 10, 644.

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