Heathen, Hindoo, Hindu is a groundbreaking analysis of American representations of religion in India before the turn of the twentieth century. In their representations of India, American writers from a variety of backgrounds described "heathens," "Hindoos," and, eventually "Hindus." Before Americans wrote about "Hinduism," they wrote about "heathenism," "the religion of the Hindoos," and "Brahmanism." Various groups interpreted the religions of India fortheir own purposes. Cotton Mather, Hannah Adams, and Joseph Priestley engaged the larger European Enlightenment project of classifying and comparing religion in India. Evangelical missionaries used images of "Hindoo heathenism" to raise support at home. Unitarian Protestants found a kindred spirit in thewritings of Bengali reformer Rammohun Roy. Transcendentalists and Theosophists imagined the contemplative and esoteric religion of India as an alternative to materialist American Protestantism, while popular magazines and common school books used the image of dark, heathen, despotic India to buttress Protestant, white, democratic American identity. Americans used the heathen, Hindoo, and Hindu as an other against which they represented themselves. The questions of American identity,classification, representation and the definition of "religion" that animated descriptions of heathens, Hindoos, and Hindus in the past still animate American debates today.
Heathen, Hindoo, Hindu
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