Passions of the Tongue: Language Devotion in Tamil India, 1891-1970 (Studies on the History of Society and Culture)
Sumathi Ramaswamy suggests that these discourses cannot be contained within a singular metanarrative of linguistic nationalism and instead proposes a new analytic, "language devotion." She uses this concept to track the many ways in which Tamil was imagined by its speakers and connects these multiple imaginings to their experience of colonial and post-colonial modernity. Focusing in particular on the transformation of the language into a goddess, mother, and maiden, Ramaswamy explores the pious, filial, and erotic aspects of Tamil devotion. She considers why, as its speakers sought political and social empowerment, metaphors of motherhood eventually came to dominate representations of the language.
"An important and original book providing a completely new perspective on the intellectual and cultural history of southern India. . . . Sumathi Ramaswamy has both produced a major work of comparative history and made the finest scholarly contribution to the intellectual and cultural history of modern Tamil Nadu to date."--Nicholas B. Dirks, author of The Hollow Crown
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