Hindu-Catholic Encounters in Goa

Hindu-Catholic Encounters in Goa

Religion, Colonialism, and Modernity
Alexander Henn
Distribution: World excluding South Asia
Publication date: 5/30/2014
ISBN: 978-0-253-01300-2
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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

"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] 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." —Journal of Hindu 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

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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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