South Asia

Organized Panel Session

(59) Domesticating the Raj through Songs of Jewish India

3/23/2018
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Coolidge, Mezzanine Level

British and Portuguese colonizers arrived on the Indian subcontinent with the hope of “domesticating” its inhabitants through education and/or missionary activity. In this panel, we follow a growing body of research suggesting that many colonized subjects responded by in turn domesticating colonial knowledge into uncolonized meanings and products. Our studies are based on the music of India’s three main Jewish communities: the Bene Israel of Maharashtra, Kerala Jews, and Iraqi Jews of Bombay - each group with a different experience of colonialism.  Even when Indian Jews were receptive to missionary and colonial education, they were resistant to actual conversion. Indeed, in the process of attending British Anglican schools and consuming American and British Bible translations and songs in Marathi, Bene Israel affirmed and nourished their Indian Jewish identity. We chart how Marathi Psalms composed by British Anglican missionaries became central to Bene Israel women’s song repertoire. Iraqi Jews arrived in India more recently and their vernacular cultural practices were Arabic, making them less engaged with missionary publication, but they performed British and Euro-American folk, classical and popular music. We also explore an Iraqi Jewish youth group with song repertoires from Britain, Europe, and British Mandate Palestine.  Among the Kerala Jews - who did not experience direct British rule - we encounter Jewish Malayalam- language Purim songs incorporating elements of an old European dramatic genre that was introduced to Catholic converts in Kerala by 16th century Portuguese missionaries, then “domesticated” through the influence of neighboring Hindu Kathakaḷi dance.

Presentations:

Anna Schultz

Stanford University, California

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Shalini Ayyagari

University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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Barbara Johnson

Ithaca College, Vermont

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Anna Schultz

Stanford University, California

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Sara Manasseh

Independent Scholar, England, United Kingdom

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