Category: Visiting Researchers
Dr. Jesudas Athyal’s edited volume Religion in Southeast Asia: An Encyclopedia of Faiths and Cultures has recently been published by ABC-CLIO. Here is what Amazon has to say about this exciting new volume:
In this unprecedented profile of the religions of Southeast Asia, scholars from around the world explore the faiths, spiritual practices, and theological dogmas of the region. The book contains a fascinating collection of accurate, detailed articles; informative sidebars; and an extensive list of reference materials, all of which uncover beliefs in that part of the world. Discussions of ancient religions, combined with a look at contemporary trends, feature topics such as religious fundamentalism, secularism, and globalization.
Through 150 alphabetically arranged entries, this encyclopedia investigates the religions and religious traditions of countries such as Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, and the Philippines, among others. Written in an accessible style, this comprehensive reference looks at a variety of belief systems, including Buddhism, Confucianism, tribal practices, Hinduism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism. A selected, general bibliography offers a listing of the most important print and electronic resources on the topic.
The CGCM offers its resources, materials, and personnel to support a variety of unique and interesting websites. In conjunction with an international network of libraries, universities, and interested individuals, the center gathers hard-to-find materials and makes them easily accessible.
Among its newest projects, the center is now hosting CGCM Visiting Researcher Catherine Corman’s “In the Midst.” This project is the result of several years of interviews Corman conducted with Barbara Beach Alter—an American Presbyterian missionary to northern India. Alter and her husband James rejected conversion as central to missionary activity in favor of service to the surrounding population. The multimedia site was launched in a celebratory gathering attended by over 40 people, including family and friends commemorating Barbara Alter’s extraordinary life as a missionary. CGCM doctoral students Daryl Ireland and Eva Pascal helped design the website to feature Corman’s innovative audio autobiography, which allow listeners to hear Alter’s stories by theme in her own voice. The story can also be explored by place and by time. Corman has also created a podcast that is now available on the website.
The American Academy of Religion has sponsored research into how the social composition and identity of Christians in India differs from that in the diaspora. The project is ongoing, but the second workshop convened on September 20th at Boston University to review and consider what has been learned thus far. Scholars from India and the United States, as well as a number of delegates from Greater Boston’s various Indian churches met together to hear and interact with the findings.
Thomas Thangaraj, from Boston University, offered the keynote address. In addition, Jesudas Athyal, a visiting researcher at the Center for Global Christianity & Mission, and Joshua Kalapati of Madras Christian College presented the project and led the conversation.
A major study project on changes in gender and caste social distinctions among the Indian diaspora Christian communities in the United States will be sponsored by Center for Global Christianity & Mission. The project will compare what has happened in the United States with ethnic and religious identity negotiations in India. The study has been facilitated by a Collaborative International Research Grant under the American Academy of Religion’s International Connections Committee.
This study emerged from the realization that the Christians of India are an important element in the resurgence of Christianity in the Southern hemisphere as well as in the emergent immigrant Christianity in the North. Indians constitute one of the fastest growing Christian groups in the United States, and Indian Church communities in North America provide interesting and significant transnational linkages across the North-South divide from which much can be learned. Hence, a comparative study of the community in the United States and India will provide resources for comparison with the Christian experience of other immigrant groups and minority communities, such as Latino/as and African Americans.
It is generally agreed that Christian communities in India, mirroring their dominant religio-social milieu, have traditionally been hierarchical/patriarchal in character. Women and Dalits (the “Untouchables”) have been marginated and denied access to positions and roles of status and power. At the same time, it seems obvious that there is a blurring of such gender and caste/class distinctions in the North American society to which Indian Church communities have migrated. Accordingly, the principle question to be considered in this study is: Is there evidence that the migrant Indian Church communities are appropriating norms and values in North American society that have the potential of driving the creation of more egalitarian social and faith communities in India and in diaspora?
Two conferences will be organized on the research question – one in Chennai, India during summer this year and the second in Boston, MA in Fall. These conferences are expected to bring together around twenty five scholars each who are familiar with studies on Indian Christian diaspora. From their diverse perspectives, the participants will consider the following questions: (1). Will the Diaspora Church become the Local church? (2). The role of Gender and Caste in the Making of the Congregation; (3). Ecumenical Inclusivity vs. Ethnic exclusivity in the church.
Dr. Jesudas M. Athyal (Visiting Researcher at the CGCM, Boston University School of Theology) will be the Principal Investigator of the project. He will also organize the conference in Boston. Dr. Joshua Kalapati (Professor of Philosophy, Madras Christian College, India) and Dr. Athyal will together organize the conference in Chennai. They will also collaborate to distill the results of the two conferences to provide a response to the main research question.
The information gathered at this project about gender and caste is expected to contribute to wider discussions of gender and religion and the role of caste in South Asian religions.
Jesudas M. Athyal
(Visiting Researcher, Center for Global Christianity and Mission)
Dr. Jesudas Athyal, a Visiting Researcher at the CCGM, has been elected vice-president of the New England-Maritimes region of the American Academy of Religion. He is the Editor of the recently completed Religion in Southeast Asia: An Encyclopedia, and Associate Editor, Oxford Encyclopedia of South Asian Christianity (2 volumes), on the 2000 years of Christianity in South Asia that was published in 2011.
Joanna Baradziej will be joining The Center for Global Christianity as a visiting researcher from the University of Bergen, Norway, for two months this summer. Joanna is currently doing research for her thesis on gender identity and female missionaries in Scotland and China. You can read more about Joanna and the Center’s other visiting researcher here. Welcome, Joanna!