Featuring papers grounded in case studies and rigorously critical of extant scholarship, the panel will encourage the articulation of more nuanced understandings of the complex interplay of westernizing and Indianizing processes in the development of South Asian Christianity.
Recognizing that South Asian Christianities are distinct forms of Christianity and that due attention should be given to their interactions with other forms of Christianity, local and global, as well as with South Asian cultures and religions, we invite exchange among historians, social scientists, and religious studies scholars who address the diverse phenomena associated with such Christianities, either their historical emergence or contemporary character. The theme for Zurich will be "Westernization and (or in) the process of acculturation" (acculturation being loosely defined as a process by which exogenous religious traditions begin to assimilate the worldview and socio-cultural character of locally dominant religions). Early scholarship often presupposed that conversion to missionary-initiated Christianity entailed a profound rupture with the convert or convert-community's pre-Christian past. From the early 20th century, proponents of religiously-inflected nationalism (whether Hindu, Buddhist, or Islamic) have seized upon this (mis)understanding of conversion as a way of portraying Christianity as inherently deculturalizing and denationalizing. Endeavoring to counteract these trends, scholarship in recent years has been inclined to accentuate the Indianness of Indian Christianity by shifting the focus from foreignness to indigeneity, agency, and syncretism. Such a shift, however, may entail another kind of lopsidedness that overcompensates for earlier distortions and downplays or ignores important field-research evidence of South Asian Christianity's Westernization. From a rigorous critique (grounded in case studies) of historiographical, social science, and religious studies trajectories, past and present, we hope to see more nuanced approaches to theory and methodology emerge from our proceedings.