As the project team review the many conversion accounts found in the archives and write our articles, we thought it would be a good idea to write short blog posts on some of the accounts we have found particularly striking. What do these convert-narrators say about themselves, how do they describe their experiences or how to they see themselves relating to the world around them?
We have found that conversion accounts were not merely straightforward autobiographies published as books. There are accounts embedded within letters, obituaries, and as part of applications for ordination as catechists or ministers. Many such accounts written on plain paper, tell us the circumstances under which the convert chose to write their story of transformation. These unpublished narratives, however, have an interesting relationship with print: brief extracts from narratives were often translated and published in nineteenth-century journals for wider circulation. Conversion accounts seem to have gained much visibility from new technologies of communication that were becoming increasingly popular in nineteenth-century India.
So, as much as the story narrated within the conversion account, the project team have been examining the repetition and circulation of accounts through translation and print. Many accounts were translated not only into English or German but into other Indian languages while others remained untranslated. Were only the most dramatic stories or converts considered most exemplary translated and republished? It certainly appears that some conversion stories received much more attention than others while one of the silences we have noticed as a team is the lack of stories from low-caste converts, but more on this in a future blog.
The following posts have been written by either one of the team or by a guest writer who is also contributing to our project publications. So do visit us for posts on individual conversion accounts that follow…