‘Worship Towards the East’: Texts and Transitions of Christianity in Kerala

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Bivitha Easo
Ambili Anna Markose


The history of community is best understood as an archive of collective memory. The history of Christianity in Kerala—the Southernmost state of India, where Christians belonging to different castes/sects constitute around twenty percent of the total population—has unfolded in an ensemble of multiple narratives about community. Nonetheless, caste and sectarianism have been the vantage points for the historiographical analysis of the Christian community in Kerala. As a result, experiences of a “minor” community, with its heterogeneous genealogies, has often been translated into the homogenous language of the colonial and nationalistic discourses of Hindu majoritarian “secular” nation-state. There has been little space for narratives that explicate community as a subjective experience, based on ontology and belief. This study, hence, explores textual universes of Christianity in Kerala, as an experiential category to engage with communities in transition. In doing so, the analysis problematizes the existing archive as that which identifies a faith community as a historically available category and re-reads and extends this archive to enable new interpretations of Christian subjectivity in the region. We re-read historical narratives in an attempt to destabilize the ways in which the history of communities is perceived as a chronologically evolved structure of events. The paper proceeds by critically analyzing various contemporary Malayalam texts that offer new narratives of Christianity, which, foreground heterogeneous genealogies of a community-in-the-becoming. These narratives of Christianity are identifiably at loggerheads with both the canonical and historical understanding of Christianity in Kerala. The community’s history is unfolded in these texts as an experiential category with political implications for the imagination of Christianity in the region, and in doing so offer an analytical frame to identify community within its discursive formations. The paper argues that Christianity in Kerala manifests an ‘Eastern’ imagination that enables us to explore possibilities beyond discourses generated by ‘Western’ Christianity and the Christian ‘West’.

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How to Cite
Easo, B., & Markose, A. (2019). ‘Worship Towards the East’: Texts and Transitions of Christianity in Kerala. International Journal for Indian Studies, 4(1), 19-38. Retrieved from https://journals.ukzn.ac.za/index.php/Nidan/article/view/1186
Author Biography

Ambili Anna Markose, Independent Scholar