8. The Making of a “Christian Hindu Apostle”: Sadhu Sundar Singh’s Swiss Tour (1922)
Translocal Lives and Religion - Connections between Asia and Europe in the Late Modern World - Philippe Bornet
Philippe Bornet [+]
University of Lausanne
The chapter deals with Sadhu Sundar Singh and focuses on the way he crossed various borders: religious, political, social, geographical. It is argued that since the concept of sādhu is not reducible to any single easy meaning, it can function as a key to unlock an interstitial space of freedom that would otherwise have remained out of reach. In order to map that space, it is necessary to go back to Sundar Singh’s early years in India, to re-contextualize his biographical trajectory in the framework of early 20th Century revivalist (politico-)religious movements and initiatives to delink Christianity from its colonial background. Focusing then on his tour in Switzerland, 1922 – a tour out of which came an impressive number of publications that would have a lasting effect – it is argued that the tour’s organizers were both projecting intentions on Sundar Singh, and overwhelmed with the actual performance and its effects. Furthermore, members of several religious movements that were in the margins of “institutionalized religions” were equally attending the meetings, producing various kinds of encounters: some leading to creative reconfigurations and some to open conflict. In sum, Sundar Singh is an excellent case study for a “connected religion” framework: since he presented himself as an “open signifier”, there are extremely divergent views on his biography, and for the historian, this requires a patient work for bringing together the pieces of the puzzle.