Juliet Got It Wrong: Conversion and the Politics of Naming in Kumaon, ca. 1850-1930

Sanjay Joshi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Through the historicization of one episode, this essay addresses a variety of questions related to class, caste, gender, religion, and social life as well as cultural attitudes in Kumaon between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. The politics of naming - who among the Christian converts of Almora changed their names and who retained their pre-conversion names - is central to this essay. Behind each name retained or changed was a story. The essay juxtaposes many different stories drawn from a variety of sources - missionary records, nationalist sources, fiction, and families' own archives. Rather than place these stories into the better-known master narratives of colonialism and nationalism or even of religion and conversion, this essay tries to highlight issues that are much more local and contextual yet resonate with concerns of other people and places. Through historicizing the local and the everyday, I argue for not conflating the ordinary and the mundane with the trivial or the unimportant. Touching on themes common to different parts of Asia, this essay highlights local histories of a region often neglected in the history of the subcontinent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)843-862
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Asian Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 9 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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