Towards a Subaltern Public Theology for India

  • Rajbharat Patta

Student thesis: Phd


What is public in public theology, from the sites of subalternity in India? And what might a theological account of such a subaltern public look like? These questions are pivotal to this research. These questions were identified because there has been an ambiguity regarding the definitions of ‘public’ in public theology: Public enjoys a wide range of definitions including people, context, state, culture, academy, society etc. Adding to this ambiguity, subalternity as a theological site does not have its place in western academic public theology. On placing this discussion in the context of India, the enquiry on public theology becomes further complicated due to the practice of the age-old caste system which continues to divide the Indian public sphere into dominant publics and excluded publics. The main aim of this thesis therefore, is to enquire into the public character of public theology from the sites of subalternity, the excluded public. To achieve this aim, the thesis employs a decolonial methodology and explores its subject in three parts. Part One engages with ‘theological contexts,’ where global and Indian public theologies are mapped and critically analysed. This part addresses the first research question, by enquiring into the deficiencies of the public character of public theology, and identifies definitional, subalternate and systematic deficiencies. Part Two discusses ‘theological companions,’ where ‘theological subalternity’ and ‘subaltern public’ are discussed as companions for subaltern public theology for India This part addresses the second research question regarding the problematising of ‘public’ from a subaltern perspective. It reclaims the subaltern public as the real public, for this public proves to be an anti-caste and a counter-hegemonic site, which contests the normativity of dominant publics. Subalternity is explained as an aporetic theological method, as a contested epistemology and as a deconstructive hermeneutic. Part Three explains ‘theological contours’ for it addresses the third research question of how the enquiries in Part One and Two contribute towards a subaltern public theology for India. Subaltern liturgy is rediscovered as a theological account of the subaltern public, for ‘the broken body of Christ’ is explained as a subaltern liturgy in the context of contesting the anti-liturgical liturgy of caste. The public character of subaltern public theology for India is explained by its contours, tasks and scope. The contours are identified as ‘God from bottom-up’, ‘liturgy before the liturgy’, ‘biopolitical nature of life’. The tasks of subaltern public theology for India are then explained as pedagogical, doxological and praxiological. Its scope is found to be a transnational public sphere, where subaltern public theology is proposed as trans-contextual theology, cosmopolitan theology and public-liberation theology. This thesis serves as a theological foundation to public theology emerging from the sites of subalternity. Subaltern public theology for India is distinctive for it offers to be a ‘deviant’ public theology to the western public theologies.
Date of Award31 Dec 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPeter Scott (Supervisor) & Scott Midson (Supervisor)


  • Subaltern Liturgy
  • Dalit
  • Subalternity
  • Public theology
  • India

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