University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Centre of South Asian Studies Seminars > Sophia Dobson Collet and the Brahma Samaj: religious cosmopolitanism between nineteenth-century Britain and Bengal

Sophia Dobson Collet and the Brahma Samaj: religious cosmopolitanism between nineteenth-century Britain and Bengal

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This paper forms part of a larger research project exploring the history of connection, exchange and co-operation between members of the Brahmo Samaj, an influential movement for religious and social reform originating in Bengal, and British and American Unitarians. Focusing on the life of a little-known English religious liberal, feminist and writer, Sophia Dobson Collet (1822-1894), the paper highlights her pivotal role in shaping a ‘cosmopolitan thought zone’ extending between and beyond Britain and Bengal. It discusses Collet’s leading role as promoter, record-keeper and historian of the Brahmo Samaj. It looks at how this was underpinned by her sense of spiritual fellowship with Brahmos, and by the friendships she nurtured and sustained with members of the group. The paper concludes that, although Collet did not articulate an anti-imperial politics, her commitment to Brahmoism over a period of more than thirty years involved a bridging of racialized divisions and hierarchies and a modelling of respectful collaboration that posed an alternative to the dominant ‘imperial social formation’ between Britain and India

This talk is part of the Centre of South Asian Studies Seminars series.

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