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The Making Of Minorities

Y. Vincent Kumaradoss

By Rowena Robinson
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2013, pp.XX 299, Rs. 850.00


One of the best known authorities in the field of Indian religious studies, Rowena Robinson has written widely on the minority religious communities.  Initially, her main preoccupation was with popular Christianity and the theme of formation of Christian identities and how they have been articulated, constructed and reconstructed.  Focusing on the making of the minorities and the nature of their contemporary shifts and trends in the Indian contexts, her engagement came to be extended crucially to the Indian Muslims, who are the largest minority in India. Like the Christian minority, the Muslim minority in India is characterized by ‘many heterogeneities and distinctions’, but it had a ‘different and difficult past that had traced for it a problematic developmental path’ (p. 13). Though neither Muslims nor Christians can be perceived as homogeneous and single units, they share a common underlying factor as non-Hindu minority religious communities. Both the communities are located outside Hinduism, and against the background of the growing wrong perceptions of the Hindu Right wing—that Christians and Muslims are anti-national—they are positioned firmly on the same side of the fence, facing similar situations in contemporary India.  Engaged with the diverse range and aspects of religions, the book under review attempts to comprehend and amplify the issues concerning Christians and Muslims as minorities and the complex ways in which they are ‘identified, defined and categorised’ in the context of contemporary Indian polity and society. All the essays in this book capture the rich dimensions of Robinson’s scholarly works, mapping the academic terrain treaded by her in pursuit of her ‘ongoing themes on the Muslims and Christians and their place in Indian society in relation to Hindu fundamentalist ideologies; and the policies of conversion and reconversion in contemporary India’(p. 16). She has deftly deployed historical, ethnographic, sociological and anthropological analytical tools while concentrating on the ‘concerns for conversion, violence, patriarchy, and interpersonal recognition across the borders between social entities’ located outside Hinduism. Focusing on the minorities as the first step in approaching the study of India’s religions differently, Robinson’s is a refreshing departure from the existing studies and understanding of Indian Christians and Muslims.  Eleven essays written over two decades have been reproduced in this volume arranged under two heads. The first part deals with Christianity and the second with the Indian Muslims in relation to ethnic violence and conflict.  The first four essays emerged out of ...

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