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Title: Conversion and communication : Christian communication and indigenous agency in conversion among the Kui people of Orissa, India 1835-1970
Author: Santra, J. R.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2005
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This thesis argues that the study of large-scale conversions to Christianity among the many tribal and Dalit communities in India needs to be done from a communication perspective. My research attempts this with special reference to the conversions among the Kui people of Orissa in the Kondh Hills. Christian service, proclamation and institutions as modes of Christian communication and their impact on people are examined. The Kui converts’ role as agents was vital in the process of communication and conversion. The period covered is from the campaign against Kondh human sacrifice in the 1830s to the conversion movement of the 1960-70s. Evidence is gathered from personal and group interviews conducted among first-generation converts using the qualitative research method, and also from the archival, library and Mission sources. Significantly, many tribal and Dalit communities embraced Christianity and led large-scale indigenous conversion movements at a time when all or most missionaries had left. Yet many critics in India view these conversions as western missionary products or achieved through force or inducements. They regard the non-literate tribals as passive recipients, and their initiative in conversion is ignored. These explanations fundamentally lack the voice of the very participants of conversion. I argue that in accounting for religious conversion the indigenous perspective is the primary reality and the converts are the true agents; that the motivation and meaning of the conversions need to be found first of all in the converts’ witness and in the role and impact of Christian communication, which influenced the decision for conversion. The five major means of communication which I have studied in the Baptist Mission and the Kui Church are: first, the person or message-bearer, the western missionary or Kui Christian him/herself, who was a medium of the message, both consciously and inadvertently. Secondly, the spoken word, in preaching and otherwise, which was a principal form used in direct evangelism. Thirdly, the written word which was no less important as a major medium, despite very low literacy. The printed Bible in the mother-tongue mediated the gospel in depth and became a prized possession. Fourthly, education which was a vehicle of Christianisation and modernisation and facilitated the important indigenous Christian leadership development. Fifthly, the medical mission work which visibly communicated God’s care and sent out a message of the power and credibility of the Christian gospel. The sustained mission work, from a basis in the gospel and the message it communicated, made a considerable impact on the Kui. The conclusions demonstrate that each of these five major means of Christian communication has played a vital part and has had considerable impact in conversion. These conversions have come about in time and terms preferred and acted on by the converts, and they have developed a distinctive way of being a church which may even be at odds with, and differ from, the expectations of the missionaries.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available