Tamil Oratory and the Dravidian Aesthetic

Democratic Practice in South India

Bernard Bate

Columbia University Press

Tamil Oratory and the Dravidian Aesthetic

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Pub Date: October 2009

ISBN: 9780231147569

288 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $70.00£58.95

Pub Date: October 2009

ISBN: 9780231519403

288 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $69.99£58.95

Tamil Oratory and the Dravidian Aesthetic

Democratic Practice in South India

Bernard Bate

Columbia University Press

This is a book about the newness of old things. It concerns an oratorical revolution, a transformation of oratorical style linked to larger transformations in society at large. It explores the aesthetics of Tamil oratory and its vital relationship to one of the key institutions of modern society: democracy. Therefore this book also bears on the centrality of language to the modern human condition.

Though Tamil oratory is a relatively new practice in south India, the Dravidian (or Tamil nationalist) style employs archaic forms of Tamil that suggest an ancient mode of speech. Beginning with the advent of mass democratic politics in the 1940s, a new generation of politician adopted this style, known as "fine," or "beautiful Tamil" (centamil), for its distinct literary virtuosity, poesy, and alluring evocation of a pure Tamil past.

Bernard Bate explores the centamil phenomenon, arguing that the genre's spectacular literacy and use of ceremonial procession, urban political ritual, and posters, praise poetry are critical components in the production of a singularly Tamil mode of political modernity: a Dravidian neoclassicism. From his perspective, the centamil revolution and Dravidian neoclassicism suggest that modernity is not the mere successor of tradition but the production of tradition, and that this production is a primary modality of modernity, a new newness-albeit a newness of old things.
The overall achievement is both ambitious and highly worthwhile. Journal of Anthropological Research
List of Figures and Tables
Preface
Acknowledgments
A Note on Tamil Words
Introductions
1. The Dravidian Proper
2. The King's Red Tongue
3. Walking Utopia
4. On Life, Moonlight, and Jasmine
5. Bhakti and the Limits of Apotheosis
6. Kavitha's Love
7. Speech in the Kali Yugam
Afterword: Dravidian Neoclassicism
Notes
Glossary
References
Index

About the Author

Bernard Bate is an associate professor in anthropology at Yale University.