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

Geoffrey A Oddie (Author)
Synopsis 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 or ‘the many Hindu religions’. Among Hindu leaders, in contrast, the notion of being Hindu and of Hinduism as one system had taken hold. Issues of topical interest discussed in this book include the nature of knowledge, notions of religion, concepts of Hinduism, the Orientalism debate, and the relationship between missionaries and empire. This fascinating and thorough work of scholarship will appeal to all those interested in South Asian history, religion and society, as well as to students and scholars of anthropology, theology, philosophy, intellectual history and political science.
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About the author

Geoffrey A Oddie

Geoffrey A. Oddie is an Honorary Research Associate in the Department of History at the University of Sydney, Australia. He has lectured in history in the same department since 1964, and has also been a Visiting Professor at the United Theological College, Bangalore (2003). Dr. Oddie was first published in 1957. Since then he has authored, edited or contributed to a score of books on various aspects of religion in South Asia, with a focus on Hinduism and missionary Christianity in Colonial and pre-colonial times. His books include Missionaries, rebellion and Proto-Nationalism. James Long of Bengal: 1814-87 (1998); Religious Conversion Movements in South Asia: Continuities and Change (edited, 1997); Popular Religion, Elites and Reform: Hook-swinging and Its Prohibition in Colonial India, 1800-1894 (1995); and Social Protest in India: British Protestant Missionaries and Social Reforms, 1850-1900 (1979).

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Bibliographic information

Title Imagined Hinduism: British Protestant Missionary Constructions of Hinduism 1793-1900
Format Hardcover
Date published: 01.01.2006
Edition 1st ed.
Language: English
isbn 8178295911
length 375p., Figures; Bibliography; Index; 23cm.
Subjects History