Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home  Tamils - a Trans State Nation > The Tamil Heritage > Tamil Studies: Current Trends and Perspectives at 17th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies, Heidelberg, 2002


Tamil Studies: Current Trends and Perspectives - Thomas Lehmann, Srilata M�ller and Sascha Ebeling
The Middle Tamil Verbal System, as seen in Tevaram: a linguistic corpus study - Jean-Luc Chevillard
Facing death in modern Tamil literature - Gabriella Eichinger Ferro-Luzzi
Studies of space, place and time in Tamil Nadu - Diane P. Mines
Writing cultural history through the novel: Kalaiman's Tillana Mohanambal - Indira V. Peterson
 Tamilpaauttam or Pauttam among Tamils? - Peter Schalk
A critical assessment of Caldwell's derivation ilam sihala  - Peter Schalk
Large Before Grammar: Issues on reading some classical Tamil texts - Takanobu Takahashi 
In Print and On the Net:Tamil Literary Canon and Identity in the Colonial and Post-Colonial Worlds - A.R.Venkatachalapathy
Circular structure in old Tamil Akam Poems -  Eva Wilden

Tamil Studies: Current Trends and Perspectives
at 17th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies
Heidelberg, September 9 - 14, 2002

Paper Abstracts

In Print and On the Net: Tamil Literary Canon and Identity in the Colonial and Post-Colonial Worlds - A.R.Venkatachalapathy  [A. R. Venkatachalapathy is associate professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies in Chennai, India, where his research examines the role of literature in Tamil identity]

" Studies on Tamil identity formation in the colonial period have established that the fashioning of a new literary canon in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries played a central role in defining a Tamil identity. A whole corpus of literary texts was �discovered� and the medium of print was constitutive of this process of literary canonisation. Given the astonishing volume (and quality) of these texts and the manner in which its �discovery� fed into identity politics, the �Renaissance� model has often been employed to describe this process.

The trajectory this canonisation took - the secular manner in which the Tamil literary canon and the identity based on it were defined - had its differential impact on Tamils in Tamilnadu (India) and Sri Lanka, the two traditional homelands of the Tamils. The focus of this paper is restricted to these two regions and does not take into account regions of South East Asia (where Tamils have lived for about a millennium with a continuing history of migration) and other parts of the world such as South Africa, Fiji and the Caribbean islands (where Tamils migrated as indentured labourers in the high noon of capitalism) because �high� literary tradition has either been weak or non-existent.

One argument of this paper is that the discovery of the Tamil classical texts and their fixity due to print ruptured the literary canon/ tradition shared by Tamilnadu and Tamil Sri Lanka in pre-colonial times. Secularisation was strong in Tamilnadu, whereby religious literature was either relegated to the margins or only accommodated into the canon for their �literary� merit - this specific appropriation being made by Tamil nationalist/ Dravidian movement politics in its attempt to fashion a linguistic identity that would transcend divisions based on caste, class and religion. On the other hand, in Tamil Sri Lanka, religion (Saivism) and caste (Vellalar) played an over-determining role, with continued primacy being given to Saiva canonical texts and Kanda Puranam. The creation of the Indian and Sri Lankan nation-states accentuated the divide.

The pogrom of July 1983 and the information technology of the 1990s have had a significant impact on the literary canon and, in its turn, on identity. The state-sponsored anti-Tamil riots of July 1983 and the subsequent armed struggle in Sri Lanka created a huge Tamil Diaspora which is now spread across Europe (UK, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, NetherlandsDenmark, Norway, Finland Canada and Australia (New Zealand). The migration of Tamils from India (USA, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, Mauritius) is also not insignificant. The Net has made possible communication within and across this Diaspora, Tamil being one of the most widely used languages on the Net, with thousands of active Tamil sites. Many of them host Tamil literary texts. In this process, the possibility of an altered literary canon on the Net is emerging, This paper hypothesises that the Tamil literary canon and Tamil identity is being refashioned in this process."

Writing cultural history through the novel: Kalaimani�s Tillana Mohanambal - Indira Viswanathan Peterson

Kalaimani�s Tillana Mohanambal (TM) was one of the most popular Tamil novels of the 1950�s, and was made into a popular film in 1968. TM�s plot charts the course of love and artistic competition between �Tillana� Mohanambal, a devadasi dancer from Tiruvarur, and nagasvaram player Sikkal Shanmugasundaram.

However, Kalaimani�s principal aim was to reconstruct for his readers the culture of sadir (later Bharata Natyam) dance and the periya melam (nagasvaram) in late 19th- and early 20th-century Tamilnadu, and especially in the Kaveri delta. TM owed its popularity mainly to to the author�s success in evoking for mid-20th-century Tamil readers a past that epitomized for them the �indigenous� �classical tradition� of the South Indian performing arts.

Through an analysis of the novel�s representations of the world of the ans, I have shown that Kalaimani used realism and thick description as novelistic devices to construct a version of �tradition�which, while it focused on local traditions and on devadasis and nagasvaram players, thus interrogating and contesting the Madras-based, brahmin- and Academy-dominated 20th-century constructions of Carnatic music and dance, was nevertheless equally selective, idealizing, and embedded in discourses of the pure, the authentic and the national.

Large Before Grammar: Issues on reading some classical Tamil texts - Takanobu Takahashi

When they cannot understand a text, philologists generally incline to attribute the reasons to a lack of knowledge concerning grammar, terminology, and the like. There are, however, some classical Tamil texts whose meaning and syntax remain unclear, even if we make full use of our knowledge of classical Tamil grammar, terminology, and literary conventions.

Let us take the case of the 178th sutra of Tolkappiyam Porulatikaram with a Ilampuranar's commentary, which runs:
"The self-praising words are, under no circumstances, addressed by the wife before the husband except on two occasions mentioned before." However, there are no sutras just prior to it which mention such two occasions, and eventually the poor commentator, Ilampuranar, finds a way out by connecting it with (44: 22-3). Who ever can connect these two between which there lie about 140 sutras or around 700 lines?

This is just one case which shows that it is not our (philologists') fault to be unable to understand a text properly. (It is better to view this case from a different angle: that is, a sutra, sutras prior to TP 178 may have been lost, or, the order of the sutras surrounding it may have changed.) There are still other cases where a philological attitude is not enough to understand texts, especially those of Kalittokai and Paripatal.  Citing an example from Kalittokai and another from Paripatal, I will consider how we can deal with them.



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