Book reviews / Testing Ground for Jesuit Accommodation: Francisco Ros, S. J. in Malabar

Nongbri, B. L. Review of Testing Ground for Jesuit Accommodation in Early Modern India: Francisco Ros SJ in Malabar (16th–17th Centuries), by Antony Mecherry, S. J. Mission Studies 38, no. 1 (May 2021): 174–75.
Editor’s note: News of another review was circulated in the eGroup in March 2021. You may also be interested in the following reviews of the same book. 
Hsia, R. Po-chia. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 71, no. 3 (2020): 651–53.
Excerpt: A dissertation submitted at the Pontifical Gregorian University, this work represents a classic missiological study: drawing from ecclesiastical archives, it focuses on the work of one Jesuit missionary, the Catalan Francisco Ros, and on one missiological theme, namely the encounter between Roman Catholic missionaries and Malabar Christians who practised Syrian rites.

Clooney, Francis X. Nidan: International Journal for Indian Studies 5, no. 1 (July 2020): 78–81.

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Book review / (OA) Testing Ground for Jesuit Accommodation: Francisco Ros, S. J. in Malabar

Borges, Charles J., S.J. Review of Testing Ground for Jesuit Accommodation in Early Modern India: Francisco Ros SJ in Malabar (16th–17th Centuries), by Antony Mecherry, S. J. Journal of Jesuit Studies 8, no. 2 (February 2021): 317–19.

Excerpt: This is a fascinating book on a Spanish Jesuit who worked single-mindedly in the Indian province of the Society of Jesus in order to bring the Thomas Christians, as they were known, into communion with the Latin rite of the Catholic Church. The time is the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in South India. These Christians had had a centuries-long relationship with the Nestorian church in Babylon and had adopted their East Syrian rite and language for their own worship.

Antony Mecherry writes that his book ‘is an attempt to comprehend, at a micro level, the complex dynamics that worked behind the process of accommodation and adaptation that Archbishop Ros and Roberto de Nobili wanted to launch in South India’ (437). One can state at the outset that the author’s project has been a great success.

In the process of his delving into this subject, we are fortunate to see the workings of a number of Jesuits and of other religious [sic] towards the project of accommodation that Francisco Ros (1559–1624) initiated and carried through. He did not come with any preplanned methodology yet in the process of working it out, had a great influence on the Italian, Roberto de Nobili (1557–1656) and his work in the Madurai mission.

More info and full text (OA): https://doi.org/10.1163/22141332-0802P011-03

KSM Editor’s note: Of related interest would be a section titled ‘Conflicts between the Jesuits and the Inquisition in the Seventeenth Century’, which recounts the ‘Malabar rites affair’, in the following article in the same issue of the journal—

Franco, José Eduardo, and Célia Tavares. New Christians, Converted Hindus, Jesuits, and the Inquisition. Journal of Jesuit Studies 8, no. 2 (February 2021): 195–213.

 
More info and full text (OA): https://doi.org/10.1163/22141332-0802P003
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Book review / Unruly Figures: Queerness, Sex Work and the Politics of Sexuality in Kerala

Kottai, Sudarshan R. Review of Unruly Figures: Queerness, Sex Work, and the Politics of Sexuality in Kerala, by Navaneetha Mokkil. Contemporary South Asia. Published ahead of print, 23 February 2021.

 

Excerpt (edited): This book stands out in the current environment because it tackles sexuality, a pressing issue of contemporary India which most local scholarship steers clear of. It covers with equal emphasis the topic of sex work and lesbian love in ‘the fraught terrains of sexuality politics’ (p. 187).
Based on the highly mediated landscape of Kerala, Mokkil foregrounds vernacular politics of sexuality by focusing on how marginalized sexual figures are produced in the public imagination through local cultural practices. Challenging the widely held belief that the visibility of sexuality is a function of globalization, …

 

KSM Editor’s note: We circulated news of reviews of this book in November 2019 and December 2019.

 

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Book review / New Directions in Research on the History of the Indian Ocean World

Eaton, Richard M. ‘The History of the Indian Ocean World: New Directions in Recent Research’. [A review of the four books listed below.] The Journal of Asian Studies 79, no 4 (2020), 1061–66.
  1. For God or Empire: Sayyid Fadl and the Indian Ocean World. By Wilson Chacko Jacob. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2019.
  2. Abraham’s Luggage: A Social Life of Things in the Medieval Indian Ocean World. By Elizabeth A. Lambourn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.
  3. Monsoon Islam: Trade and Faith on the Medieval Malabar Coast. By Sebastian R. Prange. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.
  4. India and the Islamic Heartlands: An Eighteenth-Century World of Circulation and Exchange. By Gagan D. S. Sood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.
Excerpts: The academic study of the Indian Ocean region has seen extraordinary growth in recent years….Yet it took time for the study of the Indian Ocean region to break free from the Eurocentric model epitomized by K. M. Panikkar, who in 1953 advanced the thesis that between 1498 and 1945, European colonial enterprises had so overwhelmed the economic, cultural, and political history of the region that the entire period may properly be called the ‘Vasco da Gama epoch’….

The four books under review, by contrast, not only rely on sources in non-European languages such as Judeo-Arabic, Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, and Malayalam, but also make imaginative use of them, offering fresh and original insights….

Among the four books, Elizabeth A. Lambourn’s Abraham’s Luggage: A Social Life of Things in the Medieval Indian Ocean World treats the earliest period of the Indian Ocean world… The study is based on a single scrap of paper on which the Jewish merchant Abraham Ben Yiju jotted down a list of items needed for his 1149 homebound voyage from the Malabar Coast to Arabia, after having spent seventeen years in India involved in transoceanic trade…

In Lambourn’s skilled hands, it fills an enormous void in our understanding of the material culture of Indian Ocean commerce, owing to the lack of archaeological evidence from shipwrecks along the Indian seaboard, unlike the wealth of such evidence from recovered wrecks in the South China or Mediterranean Sea….

[By] proposing the category of ‘monsoon Islam’, Prange offers a novel way of thinking about Malabari Muslims as an amphibious society that, profoundly oriented toward the sea, integrated Malabar’s economy with societies scattered across the ocean’s rim from East Africa to South China.

Jacob’s For God or Empire explores precisely this tension, as its title suggests, and it does so through a remarkable sort of biographical writing…

In 1766, a shaikh of the Alawi Sufi order, Sayyid Alawi, migrated from his native Arabia to Malabar just before the East India Company rose to power in coastal India. Jacob’s primary focus, however, is the life and career of his son, Sayyid Fadl (d. 1900). … Central to Fadl’s career was the British drive to suppress periodic disturbances involving Malabar’s dominant Muslim community, the Mappilas, whose claims to land rights were regularly dismissed by colonial officials….

All four books reviewed here will be of interest to students of Indian Ocean studies and of both modern and premodern South Asian and Middle Eastern history.

KSM Editor’s note: For other book reviews of Monsoon Islam, please see the news circulated in the eGroup in July 2020 and January 2021. News of Abraham’s Luggage was circulated by the author in October 2018.

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Book review / Monsoon Malabar: Religion, Language, Memory and Materiality

Arafath, P. K. Yasser. Monsoon Malabar: Religion, Language, Memory and Materiality. Review of Monsoon Islam: Trade and Faith on the Medieval Malabar Coast, by Sebastian R. Prange and Malabar in the Indian Ocean: Cosmopolitanism in a Maritime Historical Region, edited by Mahmood Kooria and Michael Naylor Pearson. Economic and Political Weekly 56, no. 4 (23 January 2021): 31–37.
Excerpt: The last two decades have seen a huge leap in the studies on the pre-colonial Indian Ocean region in general and that of Malabar in particular. The younger generation scholars, emerging from various disciplinary realms, influenced by the critical humanities discourses, have taken up a vast range of new themes to locate Malabar and its various religious and caste communities.
As the southern and south-eastern Asian parts of the Indian Ocean littoral have gained remarkable attention from both vernacular and anglophone scholars, new research areas have moved beyond the earlier trends that mainly focused on political history, trade routes, and commodity circulations in the Indian Ocean region
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Book review / Depression in Kerala by Claudia Lang

Halliburton, Murphy. Review of Depression in Kerala: Ayurveda and Mental Health Care in 21st-Century India, by Claudia Lang. Asian Medicine 15, no. 1 (November 2020): 200–202.

Excerpt: Claudia Lang engages in a thorough and incisive scholarly analysis of the practice of Ayurvedic psychiatry in Kerala, India, in the face of the growing hegemony of biomedicine and a purported epidemic of depression in India. She has provided what is arguably the most in-depth scholarly analysis of Ayurveda and mental health written by anyone who is not a practitioner of Ayurveda.

More info: https://doi.org/10.1163/15734218-12341468  or https://brill.com/view/journals/asme/15/1/article-p200_12.xml

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Book review / A Handbook of Kathakali

Menon, Vishnu Achutha. Review of Kathakaliyude Kaipusthakam (A Handbook of Kathakali), by Vellinezhi Achuthankutty. Asian Theatre Journal 37, no. 2 (2020): 602-03. Project MUSE.
Excerpt: By the fall of the feudal system in Kerala in the first quarter of the last century, Kathakali slowly started losing its patronage throughout. Small groups started evolving, centred on maestros of art who had social and financial influence.
This slowly paved the path towards institutionalization, wherein small troupes were adopted by societies formed by influential organizers and connoisseurs. As a result of institutionalization, the authority of classical arts became vested with those who were easily influenced by commodification and mass culture.
Besides the history of the art of six centuries, as well as its present existence under institutionalization, Achuthankutty elaborates the aforementioned points objectively with evidence gained by interviewing masters and collecting literature.

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Book reviews / Depression in Kerala

Bode, Maarten. “A Review of depression in Kerala by Claudia Lang”. eJournal of Indian Medicine 11, no. 1 (October 2019): 1–17. (OA; full text)
ExcerptsDepression in Kerala is an excellent study about the glocalization (vernacularization) of depression in Kerala… The study is based on 17 months of anthropological fieldwork in the period 2009–2014. … Depression in Kerala discusses two related topics: The indigenisation of the biomedical notion ‘depression’ in 21st-century Kerala and the making of Ayurvedic psychiatry as an alternative for biomedical psychiatry…. [The book] once more makes it clear that attributing mental distress to faulted brain chemistry unduly ignores its economic and social-cultural determinants.

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Book review / Privileged Minorities

Madathilathu, Prince Varghese. ‘Review of Privileged Minorities: Syrian Christianity, Gender, and Minority Rights in Postcolonial India by Sonja Thomas’. Journal of World Christianity 10, no. 1 (2020): 131-33.

Excerpt: Sonja Thomas, in Privileged Minorities, argues that the Syrian Christians of Kerala—though demographically a minority community in India—are not a subordinated community but a privileged community in terms of caste, race, and class, in spite of the general tendency to categorise them as subaltern.
The author analyses the dynamics of ‘privilege’ and ‘subordination’ in this community from a feminist perspective by examining historical and religious texts; analysing clothing, minority rights, and protest movements; interviewing and examining the contemporary ways in which Syrian Christians interact within and outside the community.

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