Blog Archives

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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Speaking through images 2: Power, Ambiguity, Identity

Pictures are fascinating. When we look at the same image again and again we discover new things or think of new stories behind the picture. Although the message of an image often seems obvious, most pictures have more than one dimension and inspire to tell various stories. Because they are fascinating and open to interpretation, pictures can be very powerful. With the photographs and sketches on our website, we wish to invite you to reflect together with us about the issues of our project.

Don’t worry if the pictures don’t speak to you at first sight.

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Treasure hunt in the archive

The most exciting phase in historical research is to explore new archives. If you are a historian, I hope, you agree with me. The thrill is particularly high in archives with rudimentary documentation, where you can only guess what might be behind a particular shelfmark. Sometimes you have to find your way by trial and error. It’s like treasure hunting – there is a vague promise to find something highly valuable, but you never know whether and when you will find a grain of gold. The fun of treasure hunting, however, goes much beyond looking for the one piece of precious metal.

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