18 March 2010

Telengana? But What About Telugu?


Language, Emotion, and Politics in South India

The Making of a Mother Tongue

Winner of the Edward Cameron Dimock, Jr., Prize in the Indian Humanities, American Institute of Indian Studies

What makes someone willing to die, not for a nation, but for a language? In the 1950s and 1960s a wave of suicides in the name of language swept through South India. This book asks why such emotional attachments to language appeared.

It answers by tracing shifts in local perceptions and experiences of language in general, and Telugu in particular, during the preceding century.
Mitchell shows the emergence in India of language as the foundation for the reorganization of a wide range of forms of knowledge and practice. These included literary production, the writing of history, geographic imagination, grammatical and lexical categorizations, ideas about translation, and pedagogy. Newly organized around languages, these practices then enabled assertions of community and identity. Ultimately, by the early decades of the twentieth century, new linguistic identities had begun to appear ancient and natural rather than recent and invented. Indeed, though Andhra was created as independent India’s first linguistically defined state in 1952, diverse writings projected Indian linguistic identities backwards into a long past.

This is a fascinating study of linguistic identity, state formation, and political mobilization. It greatly enriches existing understandings of Indian history and politics.

LISA MITCHELL is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and History in the Department of South Asia Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Mitchell’s prose is crisp and precise, her reasoning is historically informed and theoretically sophisticated, and her ethnography is both sensitive and astute. This book is informative, thought-provoking, and a pleasure to read.” —Partha Chatterjee

“An exceptionally provocative work, unparalleled and unprecedented, that will certainly exert a profound impact on many areas of scholarship . . . A wide-ranging and exhilarating intellectual roller-coaster ride.” —Phillip B. Wagoner

“Written with great zest and clarity, this book deepens our understanding of the complex
relationships among linguistic identity, state formation, and individual political participation in South India.” —Martha Ann Selby

Hardback / 302pp / Rs 695 / ISBN 81-7824-293-1 / South Asia rights / May 2010

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