"The Saint in the Banyan Tree" is a nuanced and historically persuasive exploration of Christianity's remarkable trajectory as a social and cultural force in southern India. Starting in the seventeenth century, when the religion was integrated into Tamil institutions of caste and popular religiosity, this study moves into the twentieth century, when Christianity became an unexpected source of radical transformation for the country's 'untouchables' (dalits). Mosse shows how caste was central to the way in which categories of 'religion' and 'culture' were formed and negotiated in missionary encounters, and how the social and semiotic possibilities of Christianity lead to a new politic of equal rights in South India. Skillfully combining archival research with anthropological fieldwork, this book examines the full cultural impact of Christianity on Indian religious, social and political life. Connecting historical ethnography to the preoccupations of priests and Jesuit social activists, Mosse throws new light on the contemporary nature of caste, conversion, religious synthesis, secularization, dalit politics, the inherent tensions of religious pluralism, and the struggle for recognition among subordinated people.
List of Illustrations Preface Acknowledgments Note on Transliteration Introduction 1. A Jesuit Mission in History 2. A Culture of Popular Catholicism 3. Christians in Village Society: Caste, Place, and the Ritualization of Power 4. Public Worship and Disputed Caste: The Santiyakappar Festival over 150 Years 5. Christianity and Dalit Struggle: 1960s to 1980s 6. Hindu Religious Nationalism and Dalit Christian Activism 7. A Return Visit to Alapuram: Religion and Caste in the 2000s Conclusion Notes Glossary References Index