Dr. Nathaniel Roberts

Dr. Nathaniel Roberts


Tel.: +49 (551) 4956 - 234
Fax: +49 (551) 4956 - 170

Nathaniel (“Nate”) Roberts is a socio-cultural anthropologist joined Max Planck in January 2011, and author of To Be Cared For: The Power of Conversion and Foreignness of Belonging in an Indian Slum. He has conducted ethnographic research on slum dwellers in Chennai, Pentecostals in Dharavi (Mumbai), and the Nagarathar (Chettiar) in South East Asia. His major theoretical interests are in the anthropology of religion (esp. Christianity) and secularism, the relationship between national elite and subaltern subpopulations, the comparative study of race and caste, and in the cultural logic of political representation and “democracy.”  He approaches these topics comparatively, and draws on work in the history of political thought and in postcolonial and subalternist historiography. His principal disciplinary framework, however, is anthropological and  ethnographic.



[2016] To be cared for: The power of conversion and foreignness of belonging in an Indian Slum. California: University of California Press.  Link


[2017] Transformation and the Suffering Subject: Caste-Class and Gender in Slum Pentecostal Discourse. In S. Anandhi, & K. Kapadia (Eds.), Dalit Women: Vanguard of an Alternative Politics in India (pp. 279–304). London & New York: Routledge.

[2015] From village to city: Hinduism and the “Hindu caste system”. In P. van der Veer (Ed.), Handbook of religion and the Asian city: Aspiration and urbanization in the twenty-first century (pp. 237-253). California: University of California Press.

[2015] Setting caste back on its feet: [Review of:] Beyond caste: identity and power in South Asia, past and present by Sumit Guha. Anthropology of this century, (13).

[2012] “Is conversion a ‘colonization of consciousness’?” in Anthropological Theory, 12(3), pp. 272-294.

[2010] “Language, Violence and the State: Writing Tamil Dalits” in SAMAJ: South Asian Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, January 2010, available on line at: http://samaj.revues.org/index2952.html.

[2010] “Pentacostē Matamāṟṟamum Talit Ilakkukaḷum” in Putiya Kōṭāṅki, January 2010. (in Tamil)

[2008] “Caste, Anthropology of” in International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2nd edition, ed. William S. Darity, vol. 1, pp. 461–463. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2008.


[2015] Setting caste back on its feet. Review of "Beyond caste: identity and power in South Asia, past and present" by Sumit Guha, Anthropology of this Century 13, May 2015.

[2011] Tamil Oratory and the Dravidian Aesthetic: Democratic Practice in South India by Bernard Bate, in American Ethnologist 38 (2), May 2011.

[2011] The Politics of Heritage from Madras to Chennai by Mary E. Hancock, in American Anthropologist 113 (1), March 2011.

[2009] The South Indian Pentecostal Movement in the Twentieth Century by Michael Bergunder, in Itinerario: International Journal on the History of European Expansion and Global Interaction 33 (1), pp. 119-21, Spring 2009.

[2007] Untouchable Citizens: Dalit Movements and Democratisation in Tamil Nadu by Hugo Gorringe, in Pacific Affairs 80 (3), pp. 538-9, Fall 2007.