Author Bate, Bernard
Article Title “To persuade them into speech and action”: Oratory and the Tamil Political, Madras, 1905–1919
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Source Comparative studies in society and history. vol. 55, no. 1 (Jan. 2013), p. 142-166
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Call number Article
Journal Title Comparative studies in society and history.
Copy vol. 55, no. 1 (Jan. 2013), p. 142-166
ISSN 0010-4175
Brief substance All the elements of twentieth-century politics in Tamilnadu cohere in 1918–1919: human and natural rights, women's rights, the labor movement, linguistic nationalism, and even the politics of caste reservation. Much has been written of how this politics was mediated by newspapers, handbills, and chapbooks, and the dominant narrative of such events privileges the circulation of print and print culture of vernacular language. This paper explores the relatively lesser-known story of the role and impact of vernacular oratory on the development of the mass political in Tamilnadu from the Swadeshi movement (1905–1908) to the formation of labor unions (1917–1919), and the explicit attempt to persuade non-elites into speech, action, and ultimately politics. I argue that Tamil oratory was an infrastructural element in the production of the political, at least the political as we understand it in twentieth-century Tamilnadu, where oratory became the defining activity of political practice. When elites made the conscious move to begin addressing the common man, when Everyman was called to join into the political, a new agency was formed along with a new definition of what politics would look like. The paper considers what such new agency and definitions entail in pursuit of a better understanding of what constitutes the political generally and the Tamil political in particular
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