Making Sense of Conversion to Christianity in Twentieth-Century Pakistan: Two Muslim Women’s Co-Authored Autobiographies as Crafted Accounts

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Co-authored, Anglophone autobiographical accounts of conversion from Islam in Pakistan present readers interested in the perspectives they can offer of Christian lives in the postcolonial Islamic Republic with a number of interpretative problems. This is particularly the case when they are published under neo-Orientalist covers by foreign presses years after events recounted supposedly took place. Considering autobiographical accounts of conversion to Christianity in nineteenth-century India, Hephzibah Israel observes that ‘one’s life becomes... an object that acquires a life of its own and one which can be probed and investigated for “religious truth”, “genuineness” and “usefulness” both by oneself and others’ (2018: 400). Yet such testimonies, she goes on to argue, ‘cannot be treated as unmediated records of convert voices’, because of their colonial provenance: they have been ‘translated, edited, revised and extracted’ by European missionaries who would deploy them to support their own evangelising projects (400). Similarly, in a twentieth-century postcolonial Pakistani context, accounts of turning to Christianity “written” by Muslim women with the help of western co-authors or ghostwriters, demonstrate a desire on their protagonists’ part to make narrative sense of personal experiences of spiritual inspiration and affiliation, social exclusion, fellowship and home-coming. These have multiple uses: for the converts themselves, as they reflect on their experiences and bear witness; for publishers seeking to profit from the sale of their remarkable stories; for religious readers in search of guidance; and for academics seeking to understand the social and political implications of the public narration of religious translations. But they must always be read with a consciousness of their mediation by their near-invisible, Anglo-American co-authors into consumable, literary forms.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSouth Asian Muslim Women
Subtitle of host publicationGenre Fiction
EditorsHaris Qadeer
PublisherRoutledge India
Number of pages25
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2019

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge/CRC Press in South Asian Muslim Women on [date of publication], available online:[BOOK ISBN URL]


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