Video: Visions of Rapture & Progress

“Visions of Rapture & Progress: Socio-economic Entanglements in Tribal/Indigenous Christianity of Northeast India”

Rathiulung Elias KC (University of Edinburgh) Presented at the UCSIA Summer School 2022 | Religion, Mobility, & Religion Antwerp, Belgium August 2022


This paper explores the connections and interplay between Christianity among Rongmei Baptists and the socio-economic visions that are entangled with their religious teachings and practices, that are characteristically disruptive to their indigenous lifeworld. Through digital ethnography, autoethnography, theoretical engagement, and theological analysis, the paper examines, critiques, and offers recommendations to decolonise theologies and praxes of disruption. The paper sets on this task by presenting a brief account of Rongmei histories with particular attention to socio-economic concerns. Then it analyses ‘visions of Rapture and progress’ among Rongmei Christians as they emerge from ethnographic research. On one hand, it shows that Christianity (Rav-chap or ‘the divine way of life’ in Ruanglat, the language of the Rongmei) provides opportunities for converts to re-envision futures in the face of drastic transitions. At the same time, I argue that the inherent coloniality of imported socio-economic visions and praxes warranted by ‘theologies of disruption’ have been destructive to indigenous lifeworld. In contrast, I suggest that ‘theologies of indigeneity and land’ could offer imaginative possibilities and alternate lifeways that challenge theologies and praxes of disruption. I demonstrate this by invoking indigenous motifs of reconciliation in concert with select theoretical engagement, thus theologically reimagining the possibilities of harmonising religious/socio-economic praxes and indigenous lifeworlds.

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