In South India, the categories 'Brahmin' and 'non-Brahmin' are frequently treated as self-evident, both within Tamil politics and mainstream academic discourses. Departing from this 'common sense', the present book historicizes the complex processes by which these categories came into being and acquired political power over the past century. Using archival, regional-language, and unconventional sources, M. S. S. Pandian unsettles the self-evident quality of these categories and opens up a rich theoretical-critical space to rethink them.
In the process, this book also offers a new perspective on colonialism nationalist accounts, it shows the ways in which colonialism was, for Tamil society, a moment of crisis as well as possibilities. This ambiguous quality of colonial rule facilitated new ways of looking at the figure of the Brahmin, even as it enabled the making of a non-Brahmin identity.
The importance of this book for understanding politics and society in Tamil South India can scarcely be exaggerated. The Non-Brahmin Writings and discursive strategies of E. V. Ramasamy 'Periyar', Maraimalai Adigal, and lyothee Thoss, alongside those of an array of Brahminic thinkers and propagandists, are presented here with a degree of sophistication and analytic skill not available in other works of political, social, and intellectual history on the Indian South.
This book will interest every historian, sociologist, and political analyst of India, as well as all who wish to understand anti-Brahmin and anti-upper-caste social movements.
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