VIEWING THE BIBLE THROUGH THE EYES AND EARS OF SUBALTERNS IN INDIA

in Biblical Interpretation
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Abstract

This paper sets out to do four things. First, it situates the concept of Subalterns in the Indian context. Caste plays an important part in its definition. Subalterns are the outcaste (Dalits) and non-caste (Adivasis) communities in the process of contracting a labouring people's solidarity. Second, it submits a methodological argument. In dialogue with postcolonial discourse on biblical interpretation, it makes the case that subalternity is characterized by the primary interplay of domestic, local and particular mechanisms of power. Thus, this location must be the starting point for interrogating the Bible from the Subalterns' viewpoint. Third, it examines the complex pattern of changes that the Bible brought about for Subalterns. Three aspects are accentuated while discussing the Bible in relation to Subalterns in India: the Bible entered into a Subaltern world that already had a long history of iconizing material objects of sacred power; the Bible was an important instrument for expounding and expanding colonial mission activity; the Bible functioned as an alternate canon within the worldview of Hinduism, which kept its sacred book (Vedas) beyond the reach of Dalits and Adivasis. Finally, it extrapolates three aspects of Subaltern biblical hermeneutics in India. There is an attribute of generosity employed in retrieving universal axioms from the Bible, which is not devoid of imaginative contextual amplification in its application to human life. Moreover, Subalterns' interpretation of the Bible is directed by the goal of transformation rather than understanding. Furthermore, the summons of Subalterns' hermeneutics is not only to take up the challenge of working within the multiscriptural context but also to take seriously the ramifications of doing hermeneutics in the multimodal and multimedia context of the Dalits and the Adivasis of India.

Biblical Interpretation

A Journal of Contemporary Approaches

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