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Israel, Hephzibah (2004) Protestant translations of the Bible (1714-1995) and defining a Protestant Tamil identity. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The thesis aims to analyse the construction of a Protestant Tamil identity primarily through the examination of six Protestant translations of the Bible in Tamil and Protestant Tamil poetry. The chapters discuss the points of conflict that arose as a result of the different strategies of assimilation adopted by Protestant missionaries and Protestant Tamils. Chapter 1 has two main sections. The first section provides an outline of the various levels of influence that Catholic and Protestant missionaries had on Tamil language and literature. The second section gives an historical delineation of Protestant translations of the six Tamil Bible versions that the thesis discusses in detail. Chapter 2 discusses the theoretical debates on language, translation, and religious terminology that took place across the major Indian languages into which the Bible was translated in the nineteenth century. The chapter also looks at the pressures of the various institutions within which Bible translators worked and how far they affected the practice and theorising of Bible translation in nineteenth-century India. Chapter 3 focuses on the Tamil terms used in the different versions of the Tamil Bible. The discussion begins with the etymological history of each term and then moves on to consider why each one was either selected or created for use in the Tamil Bible. Chapter 4 is divided into two sections. The first section looks at nineteenth-century conflicts between missionaries and Protestant Tamils over the revision of the Tamil Bible and the alternative strategies used by some Protestant Tamil poets to translate Protestant concepts for Tamil culture. The second section looks at Protestant Tamil responses to twentieth-century revisions of the Tamil Bible as well as individual attempts to translate the Bible using means different from the official translation projects. My study aims to indicate that the formation of Protestant Tamil identity is part of intricate political and cultural processes by analysing a set of related questions regarding the translations of the Bible into Tamil: why do some religious terms acquire sacred status when translation at a formal level does not match the translation of religious culture? Why has the nineteenth-century version of the Tamil Bible, in particular, acquired symbolic power, and is perceived by Protestant Tamils today as the only translation able to mark boundaries of identity and otherness? To what extent have Protestant Tamils, as an interpretative community of faith, been responsible for the shaping of a Protestant Tamil vocabulary and identity? And finally, my research points to inadequacies in current translation theory from a post-colonial perspective and suggests areas that require critical attention.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:05

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