Chandra Mallampalli

The Divinity School is pleased to announce a public lecture by Chandra Mallampalli: "Indian Pentecostals and Dalit Christians: De-centering the Ideal Citizen Subject"

This lecture will be on Wednesday February 1, at 4:30pm in our Common Room.

This talk presents the experiences of India's Dalit Christians (formerly called “untouchables”) as a valuable window for examining larger patterns of Global Christianities.  As products of mass conversion movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Dalit Christians lived at the margins of Hindu village life and established Christian traditions, and their theologies critiqued caste oppression within both Hindu and Christian contexts.  More recently, Dalits have found in Pentecostalism an alternative source of identity and belonging built around ecstatic worship, relaxed caste barriers, belief in supernatural healing and prophecy, and pastoral services that address the needs of mobile, poor, sick, and marginal peoples.  I argue that Pentecostalism, like Dalit theology, de-centers India’s “ideal citizen subject” - the upper caste, educated Hindu whose claim to cultural hegemony is grounded in a pure, classical heritage.  It does so by presenting an alternative “affective citizenship” that nurtures a sense of belonging through democratic practices and tangible experiences of community and spirituality.  The recent surge in Hindu nationalist violence against Pentecostals reacts to this de-centering work and the appeal of Pentecostalism among the marginal.

Chandra Mallampalli holds the Fletcher Jones Foundation Chair at Westmont College and is a professor of South Asian history. He is the author of four books and many articles, which examine the intersection of religion, law, and society in colonial India. His scholarship and teaching span the fields of modern India, World History, and Global Christianity.  His forthcoming book with Oxford University Press (New York), South Asia’s Christians: Between Hindu and Muslim, describes how the lives of Christians have been shaped by centuries of interactions with Hindus and Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. In 2021-22 Professor Mallampalli was an inaugural Yang Visiting Scholar of World Christianity at Harvard Divinity School, where he taught seminars on “Religious Conversion in South Asia” and “Asia and World Christianity.”  His next project, “Religion, Law and Cosmopolitanism” examines how religious discourses and laws have either facilitated world citizenship, complex solidarities, and collaboration with religious others or have contributed to cultural and ideological closure or radicalization.  The project presents a comparative framework for examining case studies from many contexts.