Yearly Archives: 2016

Translation and Religion: the three days

The three days went so quick that it was time to say our goodbyes before we knew it. This indicates of course just how engaged we were discussing the themes of the conference, each others’ research papers and sharing meals. We had a rich combination of presentations addressing translation in a range of religions, languages and regions. It was a great opportunity to compare notes and to see what similarities and differences we could identity in each other’s research area. One thing was clear, we needed more research in this area and, as far as possible, across more languages and religions.

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Annie’s thoughts…

The remit I had for this reading differed from my usual writing/dramaturgy process, in that I usually work from original writing, in consultation with the author, and with the ability to re-write material. This time I was working with text that had existed for decades and with no authors to consult with. The brief was to stick to the original text, adapting, but not re-writing, so that the words came directly from the accounts of the authors, in their time.

In order to make the reading live for an audience I had to find the drama in the accounts,

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A Battle for the Soul: The Evening

Battle for the Soul event at the Edinburgh Storytelling Centre

Doors to the Storytelling Court open at 8pm and people start walking in. A live, human audience—not just the figments of my imagination I’ve addressed during our practice runs! This is exciting.

John gives a brief introduction, the lights dim, the projections and the music come on. Annie and I walk to the front and wait for the images and music to fade. We each speak our part. I introduce each narrative section, making the link to the longer accounts from which these have been extracted as well as the fabric of history and culture within which these conversion stories are embedded.

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Translation and Religion: Interrogating Concepts, Methods and Practices


The response to our call for papers was marvellously enthusiastic. With nearly fifty abstracts, balancing quantity with quality was a difficult task. We had at least 20-25 good abstracts and if time permitted, we would have been delighted to include more than the current 15 papers that we selected. Our aim was to ensure a good range of religions, regions and languages to enable discussion across various translation and religious traditions.

Apart from these, our two keynote speakers, Alan Williams and Arvind Pal Mandair, have sent us stimulating abstracts that focus on the conceptual and methodological challenges that accompany the study of religions in translation.

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A Battle for the Soul: Preparations

I first came across Annie George and her work in theatre and film when she got in touch with me while researching the history of Christian communities of the South-west Indian state Kerala for a play she was writing. When The Bridge was advertised (www.anniegeorge.wordpress.com) I could see some historical and thematic resonances with our project topic and got in touch with her. Would she be interested in developing a play based on the many first-hand accounts of conversion we’d unearthed as a project team?

Annie was indeed interested and so began our several long conversations on autobiographical narratives left by converts to Christianity in colonial India,

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Events news

A Battle for the Soul – Hidden Voices from India’s Past event posterThe CTLA team are involved in a series of cultural events throughout 2016, starting with a reading by theatre artist Annie George at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on Thursday 26 May. Battle for the Soul – Hidden Voices from India’s Past explores questions of faith and culture in colonial India. This storytelling event invites the audience to step into the world of nineteenth-century India, with music, images and readings from accounts written by men and women.

We have planned a series of three poetry writing workshops, Self-Transformations: Writing Faith Journeys in Verse,

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‘A Battle for the Soul’ : Hidden Voices from India’s Past

The first in a series of events that the CTLA project are involved in this year, A Battle for the Soul – Hidden Voices from India’s Past presents narrative snapshots of the lives of young Indian men and women, drawn from recently uncovered autobiography and written testimony.

Theatre artist Annie George presents this rehearsed reading with projections, drawing on recent research at the University of Edinburgh by the CTLA project, documenting stories of personal dilemmas, faith and family conflict at the time of colonial rule in India. The reading will be followed by a discussion exploring some of the issues raised along with refreshments.

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Conversion beyond religions: A novel from a Hindu perspective

In my first blog post on ‘fact and fiction’ I mentioned three groups of authors for whom fictitious conversion narratives seem to have been particularly productive: Christian Missionaries, Europeans residing in India and – perhaps this may come across as a surprise – the Indian Hindu elite. I want to compare the novels Mimosa and The outcaste which I blogged on in previous entries to a novel composed by an Indian writer, who intellectually engaged with Christianity but never gave up his Hindu religion:

Clarinda, A historical novel, written by A.

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Conversion in Fiction: the exploration of a dilemma

In the last post I wrote about fictitious conversion accounts and their potential vis-à-vis factual report. But as I mentioned there, many of these fictional accounts were based on ‘real’ lives. At our Delhi workshop I presented autobiographical accounts of the Mangalore-born Brahmin Anandrao who joined Christianity and, under his Christian name Herrman Anandrao Kaundinya, became the first ordained pastor in the ranks of the Protestant Basel Mission in India. His conversion in 1844 stirred up a controversy between his family, the missionaries and the British administration. While preparing this paper, I came across a novel that seems to be based on this story.

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The “invention” of conversion: fact, fiction, and what lies in-between…

Life stories of religious conversion appear in many shapes and are told from various perspectives. You might wonder why authors favour imaginative literature over factual reports. Perhaps this has to do with the potential of literary texts to draw vivid scenes, develop multiple plots and lines of argument, map out social environments and reflect inner motions that are inaccessible to external observation. Fictional texts – such as a well-composed novel with a set of characters, suspense, emotions etc. – open a whole universe to the reader that will surpass most plots one can experience in real life. In short, literature has the potential to be “more than real”,

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