A collection of Raj’s groundbreaking ethnographic studies of “vernacular” Catholic traditions in Tamil Nadu, India.
Finalist for the 2018 Best Book in Hindu-Christian Studies presented by the Society for Hindu-Christian Studies
At the turn of the twenty-first century, Selva J. Raj (1952–2008) was one of the most important scholars of popular Indian Christianity and South Asian religion in North America. Vernacular Catholicism, Vernacular Saints gathers together, for the first time in a single volume, a series of his groundbreaking studies on the distinctively "vernacular" Catholic traditions of Tamil Nadu in southeast India. This collection, which focuses on four rural shrines, highlights ritual variety and ritual transgression in Tamil Catholic practice and offers clues to the ritual exchange, religious hybridity, and dialogue occurring at the grassroots level between Tamil Catholics and their Hindu and Muslim neighbors. Raj also advances a new and alternative paradigm for interreligious dialogue that radically differs from models advocated by theologians, clergy, and other religious elite. In addition, essays by other leading scholars of Indian Christianity and South Asian religions—Michael Amaladoss, Purushottama Bilimoria, Corinne G. Dempsey, Eliza F. Kent, and Vasudha Narayanan—are included that amplify and creatively extend Raj's work.
Reid B. Locklin is Associate Professor of Christianity and the Intellectual Tradition at St. Michael's College, University of Toronto. He is the author of Spiritual But Not Religious? An Oar Stroke Closer to the Farther Shore and Liturgy of Liberation: A Christian Commentary on Shankara's Upadeśasāhasrī, as well as the coeditor (with Mara Brecht) of Comparative Theology in the Millennial Classroom: Hybrid Identities, Negotiated Boundaries.
"…a fine volume about the interaction between Hinduism and Christianity in South India." — from the Afterword by Wendy Doniger
"Raj's work was a timely intervention that not only filled the long existing void in the scholarship of Indian Christianity but also added news pieces to the jigsaw puzzle of the complex reality of Indian Christianity as a lived religion." — Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies
"…this volume fittingly honors Raj … it showcases a fascinating body of fieldwork and descriptive writing on Catholicism lived and practiced as a minority religion in majority Hindu South India. The essays are rich in concrete detail … Regarding both practice and theory, this volume will enrich many a class on Asian Christianity and interreligious dialogue today." — Horizons
"No doubt, Raj's scholarship and ethnographic studies will deeply impact the study of everyday expressions of Christianity in India and the religiosity of ordinary people, and this volume is an important contribution toward this end." — Reading Religion