ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Dissecting ‘Modern’ Syrian Christianity


Privileged Minorities: Syrian Christianity, Gender, and Minority Rights in Postcolonial India by Sonja Thomas, Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan, 2018; pp 210, `995.

Persisting Patriarchy: Intersectionalities, Negotiations, Subversions by Kochurani Abraham, Switzerland AG: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019; pp 201, €84.99.

Sonja Thomas and Kochurani Abraham, in their separate works, present engaging and intersectional readings of Syrian Christianity. With five key chapters and a thought-provoking conclusion, Thomas complicates the ideas of minority, minority rights, communalism, caste, gender, and race in South Asia. Similarly, Abraham, in her five chapters and conclusion, opens up new possibilities of analysing gender within an upper-caste social milieu shaped by contradictions.

Before getting into the specific details of their respective works, let me emphasise the broad similarities: (i) the books are feminist “insider” interventions that cut open the smooth stories of Syrian Christian modernity. However, their “insider” status is not deep-rooted. Neither of them accurately fit the “dominant paradigm” of womanhood (as mentioned by Thomas in Chapter 6) in the community—Thomas a divorcee and Kochurani a feminist theologian. Thus, they operate in the borderlands of identity, a liminal space—one step in, the other step out; (ii) both describe the Syrian Christian woman as a “paradoxical subject”—representing the best of developmental indicators and yet conditioned by (what I prefer to call) oppressor consciousness— a term borrowed from Paulo Freire (2005: 58). This paradox is not perceived as something limited to Syrian Christians; rather they built a web of critical arguments, which implicate Kerala’s journey from a backward past to a secular present; (iii) both of them dismantle Kerala’s religious exceptionalism (as against a communal North India), albeit using different routes.

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Updated On : 26th Sep, 2022
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