Hindu-Catholic Encounters in Goa

Hindu-Catholic Encounters in Goa

Religion, Colonialism, and Modernity
Alexander Henn
Distribution: Global except Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka
Publication date: 05/27/2014
Format: Paperback 9 b&w illus., 1 map
ISBN: 978-0-253-01294-4
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The state of Goa on India's southwest coast was once the capital of the Portuguese-Catholic empire in Asia. When Vasco Da Gama arrived in India in 1498, he mistook Hindus for Christians, but Jesuit missionaries soon declared war on the alleged idolatry of the Hindus. Today, Hindus and Catholics assert their own religious identities, but Hindu village gods and Catholic patron saints attract worship from members of both religious communities. Through fresh readings of early Portuguese sources and long-term ethnographic fieldwork, this study traces the history of Hindu-Catholic syncretism in Goa and reveals the complex role of religion at the intersection of colonialism and modernity.

Author Bio

Alexander Henn is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Arizona State University. He is editor (with Klaus-Peter Köpping) of Rituals in an Unstable World: Contingency, Hybridity, Embodiment.


“An original, groundbreaking book that shows impeccable scholarship, conceptual innovation, and a deep knowledge of the context. . . . It will bring fresh ways of engaging questions not only about Goa and India but also about religious pluralism, the variations in the colonial experience, and the textures of memory. . . . A splendid achievement.”
 — Veena Das, Johns Hopkins University

“[T]his is a refreshing and inspiring book, necessary to this ongoing debate on the Goan religious experience, and it should be read as a challenge and a complement to other recent literature that has the religious history of Goa as an object of analysis.”
 — Studies in History

“[A] number of fine monographs have added further depth and nuance to questions of syncretism and hybridity . . . Alexander Henn’s 'Hindu-Catholic Encounters in Goa' stands in this scholarly trajectory, and contributes significantly to it. March 2016”
 — Journal of Hindu Studies

“This is a passionate and honest book in its approach and contents. And it is worth reading for that very reason. Henn’s account is at its best in the detailed anthropological and ethnographic descriptions of his chosen—and obviously much cherished—field: Goan village culture. ”
 — Journal of Jesuit Studies

“[A]n important, persuasive, and enduring work for its primary audience, as well as engaging reading for Christians and Hindus interested in learning from a painful moment of cultural encounter.”
 — Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies

“Hindu-Catholic Encounters in Goa is a rich work in which the author shows the processes of religious interaction and development. The writing is clear and concise and would be great required reading for upper division undergraduate courses on religion that could easily range from courses on South Asia, Christianity, Hinduism, Religion and modernity, and a whole host of others.”
 — newbooks.asia

“Hindu-Catholic Encounters in Goa is a tour de force, full of detailed, careful scholarship, and cogent, conceptually nuanced, and innovative arguments. It is clearly the work of a seasoned scholar adept in both the archive and the field. ”
 — Asian Ethnology

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Table of Contents

Note on Transliteration
1. Vasco Da Gama's Error: Conquest and Plurality
2. Image Wars: Iconoclasm, Idolatry, and Survival
3. Christian Puranas: Hermeneutic, Similarity, and Violence
4. Ganv: Place, Genealogy, and Bodies
5. Demotic Ritual: Religion and Memory
6. Crossroads of Religions: Shrines and Urban Mobility
Conclusion. Religion and religions: Syncretism Reconsidered

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