An Indian to the Indians?
On the Initial Failure and the Posthumous Success of the Missionary Ferdinand Kittel (1832-1903)
Herausgegeben von Wendt, Reinhard
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Ferdinand Kittel, working for almost four decades for the Basel Mission Society in South India, is almost completely forgotten in Germany. In the Indian state of Karnataka in contrast he enjoys great posthumous popularity. But Kittel is honoured there not so much as a missionary, but as a linguist, who greatly contributed to shape Kannada, the state's official language, and to strengthen regional identity. Fame in India and oblivion in Europe might have the same reasons: very early in his career Kittel stressed Paul's famous words from the first letter to the Corinthians, saying that true evangelisation requires to become a Jew to the Jews, a weak to the weak... Kittel tried to come close to the Indian society and to get to know intensively the culture of the people. The Mission committee, however, refused his ideas of accomodation, restricted him to work mainly for the mission press and marginalised him to a large extent. His attitude, on the other hand, allowed Kittel to become an expert in local languages and literature and to acquire a degree of linguistic competence which is undisputed until today. The articles of this volume deal with Kittel's life and achievements, describe the sociocultural contexts in Europe and in India, in which he was working, present his ideas of a successful mission, stress the importance of epics and music in his literary-emotional strategies of evangelisation and underline the value of his philological studies. Scholars from Germany, India and Switzerland are contributing to this volume, which is the first attempt to portrait Ferdinand Kittel not only as an important linguist, but as someone living and working between different cultures, a position contributing both to his work's failures and successes.