Settler colonial Christianity: Sonja Thomas, ‘”Studying Up” in World Christianity: A Feminist Analysis of Caste and Settler Colonialism’, Journal of World Christianity, 11, 2, 2021, pp. 195-209 

16Aug21

Abstract: In this article, based on a keynote address delivered in 2019 at the conference on “Currents, Perspectives, and Ethnographic Methodologies for World Christianity” held at Princeton Theological Seminary, I discuss studying up and how scholars of World Christianity need to grapple with the ways Christianity has facilitated the work of and supported state policies and institutional structures of settler colonialism, white supremacy, and brahmanical patriarchy. “Studying up” refers to studying the functionings and institutionalized nature of racist, casteist and settler heteropatriarchies. For me, Laura Nader’s “Up the Anthropologist” opened up new ways to think about, critique, and intervene into the colonialist framework of Anthropology’s roots. Accordingly, I examine potential reasons why we study down, and the difficulty in studying up. I start by looking at studying up as it pertains to Christianity in India, where Christians are a minority. I consider the intersections of casteism and brahmanical patriarchy, how privileged academics may fail to recognize spaces and activism outside the academy that always studies up, access to sites of power, and potential retaliation against scholars who attempt to study up. I then move to talk about studying up in the Christian majority country of the United States, white supremacy, Catholic settler colonialism, and the sexual abuse of Native children in Catholic boarding schools. To fully understand and support anticaste, decolonial, and feminist antiracist movements for social justice worldwide, I argue that the time for studying up in World Christianity is long overdue.



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