Bookish Transactions in the Countryside: Missionary Print in nineteenth-century rural India

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Friday, April 7th, 2017

Friday, April 7, 20172:00PM - 4:00PMEast Common Room, Hart House, 7 Hart House Circle
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Coinciding with the rise of Protestant missionary activity, the spread of print technology in nineteenth-century South Asia introduced the cheap, mass-produced book in Indian languages and led to a boom in religious print. Despite the considerable body of work on Christian missionaries’ pioneering role in vernacular printing and their use of print for proselytizing, little attention has been paid to the impact of Christian tracts in the low-literacy environment of rural India. This talk examines how missionaries used the printed tract as both an object of transaction and a tool of conversion in their encounters with prospective converts in the Indian countryside. It also explores the understudied role of Indian colporteurs and catechists in disseminating Christian tracts. In tracing the shifting status of the tract as gift and saleable object, I outline the challenges of the missionary print enterprise, while drawing attention to the material dimensions of the book.

Ulrike Stark is Professor of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on Hindi literature, South Asian book history and print culture, and North Indian intellectual history. She is the author of An Empire of Books: The Naval Kishore Press and the Diffusion of the Printed Word in Colonial India (2007) and is currently completing a biography of Raja Sivaprasad ‘Sitara-e Hind.’


Rachel Ostep


Ulrike Stark
Professor, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago

Christoph Emmrich
Director, Centre for South Asian Studies


Centre for South Asian Studies

CASSU - Contemporary Asian Studies Student Union


the Centre for Comparative Literature

Asian Institute


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