This book studies the politics of Pentecostal conversion and anti-Christian violence in India. It asks: why has India been experiencing increasing incidents of anti-Christian violence since the 1990s? Why are the Bhil Adivasis increasingly converting to Pentecostalism? And, what are the implications of conversion for religion within indigenous communities on the one hand and broader issues of secularism, religious freedom and democratic rights on the other? Drawing on extended ethnographic fieldwork amongst the Bhils of Northern India since 2006, this book asserts that ideological incompatibility and antagonism between Christian missionaries and Hindu nationalists provide only a partial explanation for anti-Christian violence in India. It unravels the complex interactions between different actors/ agents in the production of anti-Christian violence and provides detailed ethnographic narratives on Pentecostal conversion, Hindu nationalist politics and anti-Christian violence in the largest state of India that has hitherto been dominated by upper caste Rajput Hindu(tva) ideology.
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Sarbeswar Sahoo teaches Sociology at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, India. He is also Adjunct Faculty at the Centre for the Study of Religion and Culture in Asia, University of Groningen, the Netherlands. His research interests include Civil Society and Democratization, Sociology of Religion, Pentecostalism, and anti-Christian Violence in India. He is the author of Civil Society and Democratization in India: Institutions, Ideologies and Interests (2013).
Preface; Acknowledgements; 1. Introduction: conversion and the shifting discourse of violence; 2. Spreading like fire: the growth of Pentecostalism among tribals; 3. Taking refuge in Christ: four narratives on religious conversion; 4. Becoming believers: Adivasi women and the Pentecostal Church; 5. Seen as the alien: Hindutva politics and anti-Christian violence; 6. Conclusion: beyond the competing projects of conversion; Endnotes; Bibliography.
'The modern state struggles with social diversity, especially religious diversity. The problem is exacerbated by a religious majority that seeks to define citizenship in exclusively majoritarian terms. India is no exception and we are all too familiar with Hindu and Muslim conflict. Less familiar perhaps is the growth of Pentecostalism in India which is often violently rejected by Hindu nationalists, but also criticized by mainstream Christianity. This book is a remarkable study of the spread of Pentecostalism mainly among the poor among the Bhil tribes of Rajastan. This fascinating account of the complexity of conversion experiences shows how religious conversion leads to both hope and social mobility. A major contribution to both the study of modern India and to the sociology of religion.' Bryan S. Turner, Australian Catholic University 'Few topics are as highly charged today in India as is Christian conversion. Few, at the same time, raise more complex ethical and policy questions. In this vividly written and analytically sophisticated work, Sarbeswar Sahoo provides us with a ethnographically rich account of the politics and experience of Christian conversion in contemporary northern India. The result is not only one of the finest accounts currently available on Christian conversion in India, but a major contribution to the comparative study of Christianity and conversion in our contemporary world.' Robert Hefner, Boston University
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