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St Francis Xavier and the politics of ritual in Portuguese India

This book is a study of the complex nature of colonial and missionary power in Portuguese India. Written as a historical ethnography, it explores the evolving shape of a series of Catholic festivals that took place in Goa throughout the duration of Portuguese colonial rule in India (1510-1961), and for which the centrepiece was the “incorrupt” corpse of São Francisco Xavier, a (Spanish Basque) Jesuit missionary (1506–1552)-turned-saint (1622). Using distinct genres of source materials produced over the long duree of Portuguese colonialism in India (Xaverian biographies, European travelogues, royal decrees and Jesuit letters, a state commissioned book dedicated to Xavier, Goa guidebooks, newspaper articles, and medical reports), the book documents the historical and visual transformation of Xavier’s corporeal ritualization in death from a small-scale religious feast arranged by Jesuit missionaries (1554), into an elaborate celebration of Xavier’s canonization organized jointly by church and state (1624), and finally, into a series of “Solemn Expositions” designed by colonial officials at regular centenary intervals (1782, 1859, 1952), including the last colonial exposition of 1961 staged amidst Goa’s liberation and integration into postcolonial India. These six ritual “events”, staged at critical junctures (1554, 1624, 1782, 1859, 1952, 1961), and always centered on Xavier’s biography and corpse, provide the conceptual framework for individual chapters of the book.

on the four-hundred-year anniversary of his death. In this chapter I take as my central focus the practice of commemoration, focusing on Xavier’s tenth ‘Solemn Exposition’ that was staged in Old Goa from 3 December 1952, until 6 January 1953, under the auspices of the Estado da Índia. These multiple investments in Xavier’s ritualization also took place at a time when the continued status of Goa as a

in The relic state

a symbol and agent of colonial state authority in the midst of escalated tensions between the Estado da Índia and the Society of Jesus, including parallel concerns over the physical deterioration of Xavier’s corpse – its state of ‘desiccation’ 4 – and which culminates in the expulsion of this religious order from Goa in 1759. My analysis will suggest that, despite attempts by the Portuguese Crown

in The relic state
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Yards distant from it. Now if any should question the Truth of Xavier’s Story of Goa , they would be branded with the odious Name of an obstinate incredulous Heretick, and perhaps fall in the Hands of a convincing Inquisition. – Alexander Hamilton, 1692 2 In 1624 the Estado da Índia staged a reception to honour

in The relic state
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corpse less a concern for the Estado da Índia, which was now experiencing even more acutely its own precarious position in Goa. In this chapter I explore the ritual dimensions of the ‘Second Solemn Exposition’ of 1859 that was staged in the face of a ruinous state that was increasingly uncertain about the longevity of its colonial rule given the dominating presence of the British in India, and their slow

in The relic state
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The relic state

taken the ‘sacred remains’ of Goa’s Apostle and Defender, São Francisco Xavier, with them when they were forced to leave by Indian troops bent on liberating this colonial enclave (1510–1961) located in the midst of a newly independent nation-state (1947). That the Estado da Índia desired the removal of Xavier’s body from Goa as a last colonial act suggests his crucial role

in The relic state
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. In this chapter I develop a discourse of incorruptibility as applied to both saint and state in the midst of an era of Portuguese political and economic expansion in which the Society of Jesus was defining and securing its position in Goa while operating under the patronage of the Estado da Índia. This discourse emerged not only in relation to Xavier’s corpse; rather, I argue that its production and

in The relic state
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Seas, oceans and civilisations

Debating civilisations Peninsula (Smith, 2006: 91–​2). The rituals stopped after crossings of the Cape of Good Hope. As they entered the Indian Ocean as a ‘Western’ force, they had to do so on Eastern terms. In following an entrepôt pattern of empire-​building, they used a combination of naval and military coercion and negotiation to acquire ports at Mombasa, Mozambique, Goa, Melaka, Macao and Nagasaki. Through their company, the Estado da India Oriental, they established a vehicle of colonial power that could maintain routes of communication, transfer and long

in Debating civilisations
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Cultures of display and the British Empire

, harbours and anchorages of this State’. The Count of Linhares assigned the responsibility to Captain Pedro Barreto de Resende, who produced Livro do Estado da India Oriental , a survey of Iberian interests ranging from the Indian to the Pacific Ocean. It showed towns, ports and fortresses, as well as individual buildings, fortifications and schematic plots of vegetation from a high bird’s-eye view. 17

in Exhibiting the empire