Accepted paper:

Demonstrating Christian aesthetics in a South Indian leprosy community

Authors:

James Staples (Brunel University)

Paper short abstract:

When the leprosy-affected people I worked with in South India converted from Hinduism or Islam to Christianity at the same time as being treated for their disease, they underwent a whole series of changes to their lives that went beyond the spiritual and which incorporated the aesthetic and the material. A change of religion not only meant a change of identity that enabled those I worked with to renegotiate how their disease status identified them, but it also had implications for how they dressed, what they consumed, how they decorated and occupied their houses and communities, and how they moved and presented themselves to the wider public. With conversion, in short, came a new Christian aesthetic that differentiated my informants from the Hindus and Muslims they lived in close proximity to. This paper sets out to document the aesthetics of conversion in this case and to explore what an analysis of these aesthetics might tell us.

Paper long abstract:

When the leprosy-affected people I worked with in South India converted from Hinduism or Islam to Christianity at the same time as being treated for their disease, they underwent a whole series of changes to their lives that went beyond the spiritual and which incorporated the aesthetic and the material. A change of religion not only meant a change of identity that enabled those I worked with to renegotiate how their disease status identified them, but it also had implications for how they dressed, what they consumed, how they decorated and occupied their houses and communities, and how they moved and presented themselves to the wider public. With conversion, in short, came a new Christian aesthetic that differentiated my informants from the Hindus and Muslims they lived in close proximity to. This paper sets out to document the aesthetics of conversion in this case and to explore what an analysis of these aesthetics might tell us.

panel P05
Aesthetics of conversion