CORDIS
EU research results

CORDIS

English EN

Becoming a Martyr in Early Modern South India: The Memory of Tēvacakāyam between Jesuit Mission and Tamil Popular Culture.

Objective

In the TamCatHoly project, I explore ideas and practices of Catholic martyrdom and self-sanctification in early modern South India, in the context of the mission established by the Jesuits in Madurai in 1606. Unlike previous narratives centred around the missionaries, I adopt a new perspective, and focus on how Tamil converts reshaped ideas and practices of martyrdom, sanctity, and the miraculous, in order to accommodate their new faith within local social and cultural orders. How did they recognise, and relate to Catholic saintly figures and their powers? What were the tools and strategies at their disposal for becoming martyrs and saints themselves? My research addresses such questions by focusing on the little-known figure of a local convert, Tēvacakāyam (1712-1752), a high-caste Nadar soldier who converted to Catholicism in 1745, and was later imprisoned, tortured and killed by the king of Travancore. Upon his death, Tamil Catholics throughout South India immediately recognised him as a martyr and set to tell his story in songs and ballads, while missionaries begun to promote the cause of his canonisation. In the project, I analyse the biography and cultural memories of Tēvacakāyam and his martyrdom drawing upon hitherto unstudied sources such as hagiographic texts written in popular Tamil genres from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century, and local historical records and Church documents produced around his canonisation process. I read these Indian and European archives in Tamil, Malayalam, Latin, Italian, French, and Portuguese at the crossroad of philology, indology, and cultural and social history, thus inaugurating a novel interdisciplinary perspective. In doing so, I endeavour to connect the history and culture of small Tamil locales to the global history of Catholic missions on the verge of modernity, and explore the complex evolution of religious and regional belonging against overly simplified received notions of Catholic and Tamil identity.
Leaflet | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors, Credit: EC-GISCO, © EuroGeographics for the administrative boundaries

Coordinator

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE CNRS

Address

Rue Michel Ange 3
75794 Paris

France

Activity type

Research Organisations

EU Contribution

€ 196 707,84

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 840879

Status

Grant agreement signed

  • Start date

    1 September 2020

  • End date

    31 August 2022

Funded under:

H2020-EU.1.3.2.

  • Overall budget:

    € 196 707,84

  • EU contribution

    € 196 707,84

Coordinated by:

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE CNRS

France