Ananya Chakravarti, "The Empire of Apostles" (Oxford UP, 2018)


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Ananya Chakravarti’s The Empire of Apostles: Religion, Accommodatio and The Imagination of Empire in Modern Brazil and India (Oxford University Press), recovers the religious roots of Europe's first global order, by tracing the evolution of a religious vision of empire through the lives of Jesuits working in the missions of early modern Brazil and India.

These missionaries struggled to unite three commitments: to their local missionary space; to the universal Church; and to the global Portuguese empire. Through their attempts to inscribe their actions within these three scales of meaning--local, global, universal--a religious imaginaire of empire emerged.

This book places cultural encounter in Brazil and India at the heart of an intellectual genealogy of imperial thinking, considering both indigenous and European experiences. Thus, this book offers a unique sustained study of the foundational moment of early modern European engagement in both South Asia and Latin America.

In doing so, it highlights the difference between the messy realities of power in colonial spaces and the grandiose discursive productions of empire that attended these activities. This is the central puzzle of the book: how European accommodation to local peoples and their cultures, the experience of give-and-take in the non-European world and their numerous failures, could lead to a consolidation of an enduring vision of cultural and political dominion.

Ananya Chakravarti is Associate Professor, South Asian and Indian Ocean history at Georgetown University.

Ahmed Yaqoub AlMaazmi is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University. His research focuses on the intersection of law and the environment across the western Indian Ocean. He can be reached by email at or on Twitter @Ahmed_Yaqoub. Listeners’ feedback, questions, and book suggestions are most welcome.

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