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Imagined Hinduism

Imagined Hinduism
British Protestant Missionary Constructions of Hinduism, 1793 - 1900

First Edition

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April 2006 | 378 pages | SAGE India
This important book explores the emergence and subsequent refinement of the idea of Hinduism as it developed among British Protestant missionaries in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The author demonstrates how the missionaries' construction of Hinduism grew out of their own roots in post-Enlightenment Europe, their Christian conception of religion, the colonial reality of India, and their need to 'know the enemy' in order to spread Christianity more effectively.

Drawing upon missionary writings, Geoffrey Oddie shows how the early view of Hinduism as pagan or heathen settled into the dominant paradigm of Hinduism as a unitary, brahman-controlled `system`, ridden with idolatry, ritualism, superstition and sexual licence. This `other` was compared with evangelical Christianity, in which inward devotion counted for more than outward ritual, and where the individual was free from oppression and `priestcraft`.

Finally, this book looks at the impact of these representations of Hinduism in India and the West. By the late nineteenth century, as the author demonstrates, the missionaries` increasing acquaintance with Hinduism not only prompted a more sympathetic approach, but also a revision of the unitary model. Some even spoke of `the many Hindu religions`. Among Hindu leaders, in contrast, the notion of being Hindu and of Hinduism as one system had taken hold.

Hinduism in Travel and Missionary Accounts, 1600-1800
Hinduism as Represented by Protestant Friends of Mission in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries
Orientalist Models and Missionary Scholarship
Hinduism in Missionary Education and Training
The Emergence of a Dominant Paradigm
William Carey

A Pioneer's Journey of Exploration

William Ward's `History'
The Guardians-Consolidating the Paradigm
Duff, Mundy and Others

Hinduism in Missionary Society Periodical Literature
A Changing Context
Some General Developments Affecting Missionary Perceptions of Hinduism, 1850-1900

Critics and Commentators on the Dominant View, 1850-1900
Empathy or Otherness? Changing Evaluations of Hinduism in the Nineteenth Century
Gender Issues in the Construction of Hinduism with Special Reference to the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society, 1880-1900

A valuable work adding a lot that is useful to the debate. Should be of interest to anyone involved in debates not just on missionary thought, but the constrction of the terms “religion” and “ Hinduism”, as well as the broader range of debates around orientalism and post-colonial thinking.

Journal of Religious History

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