The Female Convert: 'Outcaste' by the Community


This paper focuses on the identity of the female convert in the context of colonialism and nationalism. Conversion always affected women in a more personalised way. The freedom bestowed by Christianity was valued more by them because they bore the brunt of orthodox practices. However, this freedom was achieved at the cost of being ‘outcaste’ from mainstream Hindu society. The converted woman, on being deprived of her network of social support, was thrown upon her own resources and this directly led to the growth of a new individualism in her. The ideological tensions of her position as a new convert were enhanced by her ‘outcasting’, on the one hand, and her resistance to some westernized cultural practices, on the other. There was also a certain ambivalence in the attitude of English missionaries towards her. Finally, her perception of her own position in relation to the dominant male figure in her life – father, husband or brother – reflected her adherence to an ideal of femininity which was influenced by both the Indian/Hindu and the Western/Christian ideals of femininity. Only rarely did she overstep the boundaries of this femininity. The paper deals with the autobiographical narratives of three upper caste Hindu women who converted to Christianity in the nineteenth century: Saguna by Krupabai Satthianadhan, I Follow After by Lakshmibai Tilak and The Letter and Correspondence of Pandita Ramabai. My critical reading of these women’s narratives is done in terms of western critical theories of selfhood in autobiography.


Ivy Imogene Hansdak
Associate Professor, Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Religious Community and Socialization


Conversion, Outcasting, Colonialism, Nationalism, Identity formation

Digital Media

This presenter hasn’t added media.
Request media and follow this presentation.