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Passions of the Tongue: Language Devotion in Tamil India, 1891-1970

 
Sumathi Ramaswamy (Author)
Synopsis Why would love for their language lead several men in southern India to burn themselves alive in its name? Passions of the Tongue analyzes the discourses of love, labor, and life that transformed Tamil into an object of such passionate attachment, producing in the process one of modern India's most intense movements for linguistic revival and separatism. 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. In vigorously arguing for a cultural history that reveals the structures of sentiments and the ideologies of love that emerge around a language, Passions of the Tongue allows us to understand how languages can inspire their speakers to devote themselves zealously to their cause.
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About the author

Sumathi Ramaswamy

Sumathi Ramaswamy is Associate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; editor of Beyond Appearances; Visual Practices, and Ideologies in Modern India (2003); and author of Passions of the Tongue: Language Devotion in Tamil India, 1891-1970 (1997).

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Bibliographic information

Title Passions of the Tongue: Language Devotion in Tamil India, 1891-1970
Format Hardcover
Date published: 01.01.1998
Edition Reprint
Language: English
isbn 8121508517
length xxiv+303p., Plates; Figures; Notes; References; Index; 25cm.