Journal article / Runaway Slaves and Religious Conversion in Colonial Kerala, 1816–1855

Paul, Vinil Baby. ‘“Onesimus to Philemon”: Runaway Slaves and Religious Conversion in Colonial “Kerala”, India, 1816–1855’. International Journal of Asian Christianity 4, no. 1 (March 2021): 50–71.

Abstract (edited): Social and economic aspects predominate the study of religious conversion among the lower castes in Kerala. Most of these studies only explored the lower caste conversion after the legal abolition of slavery in Kerala (1855). The existing literature followed the mass movement phenomena.

These studies ignored the slave lifeworld and conversion history before the abolition period, and they argued that through religious conversion, the former slave castes began breaking social and caste hierarchy with the help of Protestant Christianity. The dominant Dalit Christian historiography does not open the complexity of slave Christian past.

Against this background, this paper explores the history of slave caste conversion before the abolition period. From the colonial period, missionary writings bear out that the slaves were hostile to and suspicious of new religions. They accepted Christianity only cautiously. It was a conscious choice, even as many Dalits refused Christian teachings.

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Reposted from Kerala Scholars eGroup


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