Outside the Fold - Conversion, Modernity, and Belief

Outside the Fold - Conversion, Modernity, and Belief

Product ID: 8245

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Author: Gauri Viswanathan
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2001
Language: English
Pages: 332
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0195657357


A brilliant and compelling book that persuasively argues the importance of conversion as a form of cultural and political critique.

In its most transparent meaning as a change of religion, conversion is arguably one of the most unsettling political events in the life of a society. This is irrespective of whether conversion involves a single individual or an entire community whether it is forced or voluntary, or whether it is the result of proselytization or inner spiritual illumination. Not only does conversion alter the demographic equation within a society and produce numerical imbalances, but it also challenges an established community’s assent to religious doctrines and practices.

The author suggests that conversion performs the epistemological function of negotiating differences in viewpoints.


Viswanathan work brilliantly adds complexity to the very concept of what it means to ‘convert’. I cannot conceive of a more important reading in its detail and its strength. This is the work of a dedicated and highly sophisticated thinker.
-Sara Suleri Goodyear, Yale University

Viswanathan works with a lightness of touch and style of reasoning that makes her argument most exciting and provocative.
- Biblio

A rich and enormously thoughtful study . . . one that not only joins the best in its field but, far more unusually, promises to refashion its field of study . . . Viswanathan has been successful in ushering the quasi-untouchable discourse of belief past the temple guards of modernity.
- Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture

OUTSIDE THE FOLD is a fascinating book…it adopts a transcultural perspective that refuses to treat the debates on conversion in the west and its colonies as independent of each other, but sees them as mutually interconnected.
- Contributions to Indian Sociology

Vishwanthan’s study is a richly researched meditation. It is an original, scholarly, sophisticated, and subtle exploration of a religious experience that has had .. disruptive consequences. She shows that … a change in religious conviction and intellectual exploration becomes a form of cultural protest.
- Christianity and Literature

Gauri Viswanathan’s work is characterized by enormous detail and erudition. The general reader will find much that is interesting and useful, particularly since it concerns itself with the debates around religious identity, conversion and the nation state.
- The Book Review

The volume’s source materials and insights make it a potential feast for those who desire a more prominent place for religious ideas in secular scholarship.
- Books and Culture

What lends uniqueness to Viswanathan’s study are her determined attempts to bring both the metropolitan (the British) and the colonial (the Indian) frames into a mutually interrogative and interactive juxtaposition.
- Cultural Dynamics

Learned and syncretic in its handling of religious. . . text and principles, careful in its braiding of post colonialist and feminist insights, OUTSIDE THE FOLD is highly recommended reading.
- Religion and the Arts


Winner of the 2000 Ananda K Coomaraswamy Prize, awarded by the Association for Asian studies

The 1999 James Russell Lowell Prize, awarded by the Modern Language Association

And the 1999 Harry Levin Prize, awarded by the American Comparative Literature Association.