Redeeming Indian "Christian" Womanhood? Missionaries,Dalits, and Agency in Colonial India

Chad M. Bauman
2008 Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion  
This study of dalit Christians in colonial North India suggests that women who converted to Christianity in the region often experienced a contraction of the range of their activities. Bauman analyzes this counterintuitive result of missionary work and then draws on the work of Saba Mahmood and others to interrogate the predilection of feminist historians for agents, rabble-rousers, and gender troublemakers. The article concludes not only that this predilection represents a mild form of
more » ... ild form of egocentrism but also that it prevents historians from adequately analyzing the complexity of factors that motivate and influence human behavior. Much of the literature on the history of Christian missions in India, particularly that which missionary societies themselves produced, assumes that Western missionaries were agents of change who injected what contemporary liberal Westerners would consider "progressive" values into a cultural context otherwise behind the times. 1 In particular, this literature takes for granted that missionaries were a force of positive change with regard to what, in the literature of the time, were called "women's issues." Certain aspects of the lives of Indian women who converted to Christianity certainly improved. But conversion to Christianity cannot be said without qualification to have achieved or even furthered the "emancipation" of India's Christian
doi:10.2979/fsr.2008.24.2.5 fatcat:fwpkhyxz2bh7pfpwlquqdh2fpi