Revolutionary family life and the Self Respect movement in Tamil south India, 1926–49


During the second quarter of the 20th century, the Self Respect movement (cuyamariyatai iyakkam) introduced a programme of non-Brahmin uplift in Tamil south India that consisted of a radical critique of social, political and economic relations. By following the coverage of family and marriage in the Self Respect popular press (the weekly newspaper Kudi Arasu in particular), and through interviews with Self Respecters who lived through the period 1926–49, this article attempts to sketch out how and why the family was interpolated both as an object of criticism and as a site of struggle. That is to say, Self Respect was not only a set of arguments, but also a set of practical strategies for transforming everyday and ritual life into revolutionary propaganda through choice of dress, names, home décor and domestic ritual, as well as through attending public meetings and reading newspapers. In particular, ‘modern, Self Respecting Tamil couples’ were projected as a resolution to what the Self Respect movement high-lighted as the social, political and economic problems perpetuated by the traditional joint family. Yet, over the course of the 20th century in the Tamil south, marriage and family proved to be unstable vehicles for the revolutionary transformation of socio-political domains.

Read the complete article at: 

Author: Sarah Hodges

  1. Sarah Hodges is at the History Department, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK. 

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