Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Religious and Theological Studies

First Advisor

Larry K. Graham, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Carrie Doehring

Third Advisor

Ginni Ishimatsu


Dalit, Dalit psychology, Pastoral care, Pastoral counseling, Pastoral theology


Current approaches to the ministry of pastoral care and counseling in the South Indian context lack a serious grasp of the critical needs of survival, liberation and cultural identity of the Dalit Christian communities. Prevailing models of care that are individualistic and based on clerical hierarchy have failed to give adequate attention to the systemic, cultural and psychological dimensions of the contextual needs of the Dalit Christians and foster a shared understanding of their problems. The theological and cultural sources that inform the pastoral care practices are not indigenous to their context and therefore fail to provide a critical and constructive perspective on the needs that arise in the context of caste oppression.

This study develops a communal contextual and intercultural approach to pastoral care and theology that is interdisciplinary in nature and informed by indigenous sources of knowledge, Dalit liberation theology as well as Latin American liberation psychology to respond to the contextual needs of the Dalit people. The communal contextual approach seeks to understand pastoral needs in their wider sociocultural and political contexts that include the realities of caste prejudice, patriarchy and sexism, among others. The communal contextual approach also expands the ministry of care from being the exclusive domain of the ordained clergy to include caring resources of the faith community, thereby affirming the collective subjectivity of the Dalit communities. The intercultural approach offers a framework not only for facilitating a healthy, constructive and respectful interaction with other cultures, but also for empowering marginal communities such as the Dalits. This approach encourages Dalits to resist the hegemonic nature of the dominant discourses while also affirming and privileging Dalit cultural perspectives and resources to build and strengthen Dalit cultural identity. As an intercultural approach, it pays particular attention to the power dynamics that come into play when two cultures interact. Dalit liberation theology provides the theological rationale and cornerstone for this communal contextual and intercultural approach to care. This theology is operationalized using strategies of intervention from narrative theory as conceptualized by Michael White and David Epston. This dissertation, written from a Dalit perspective, argues that this new model of pastoral care and theology creates new possibilities that theologically empower Dalits to not only to reimagine their `Dalitness' by reclaiming their cultural heritage, but also to effectively address their critical issues of survival, liberation and developing a cultural identity.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Johnson Petta

File size

333 p.

File format





Regional studies