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True Believers? Agency And Sincerity In Representations Of "Mass Movement" Converts In 1930s India

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Chapter Summary

Recent legislation against "forced conversion" in several states in India is part of a longer history of people questioning the agency of religious converts. This chapter examines the representations of the conversions, which often focus on precisely these questions of agency and sincerity. Numerous written representations of lower caste mass converts in India demonstrate that the agency and sincerity of converts were a point of persistent concern in the 1930s, a preoccupation that continues to this day. The chapter argues that missionary representations of converts' motives in the late colonial period defended conversion as a form of cultural escape for low castes yet simultaneously reinforced static disparities in power. In particular, three books by missionaries about "mass movement" converts reinforced dichotomies between political vs. spiritual and mass vs. individual conversions. Finally, the chapter discusses four representations of converts, three by missionaries and one by an incipient convert, Dr. Ambedkar.

Keywords: agency; Dr. Ambedkar; India; lower caste; Mass Movement; religious conversion; sincerity



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