Although demographically a minority in Kerala, India, Syrian Christians are not a subordinated community. They are caste-, race-, and class-privileged, and have long benefitted, both economically and socially, from their privileged position. Focusing on Syrian Christian women, Sonja Thomas explores how this community illuminates larger questions of multiple oppressions, privilege and subordination, racialization, and religion and secularism in India.
In Privileged Minorities, Thomas examines a wide range of sources, including oral histories, ethnographic interviews, and legislative assembly debates, to interrogate the relationships between religious rights and women’s rights in Kerala. Using an intersectional approach, and US women of color feminist theory, she demonstrates the ways that race, caste, gender, religion, and politics are inextricably intertwined, with power and privilege working in complex and nuanced ways. By attending to the ways in which inequalities within groups shape very different experiences of religious and political movements in feminist and rights-based activism, Thomas lays the groundwork for imagining new feminist solidarities across religions, castes, races, and classes.
In her study of power and patriarchy in Kerala, Thomas expertly weaves caste, race, and religion into her analysis, attending closely to the roles that denominational myths, histories, and politics play in the formation of Kerala’s gender dynamics.
Corinne Dempsey, author of Kerala Christian Sainthood: Collisions of Culture and Worldview in South India
Sheds light on the complex dynamics of majority / minority populations in India through an intersectional feminist analysis of Syrian Christianity in Kerala.
Meena Khandelwal, author of Women in Ochre Robes: Gendering Hindu Renunciation
Till now there has been little scholarly analysis of a minority within the minority. Sonja Thomas breaks new ground by illuminating both the privileges that Syrian Christian women enjoy and the subjugation they experience, reflecting on the implications of their complex identities for feminist theory and activism.
Amrita Basu, Paino Professor of Political Science and Sexuality, Women's, and Gender Studies, Amherst College