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Dravidianism: Theorizing Identity, Religion, Culture, and Society in Tamil Reformist Thought


Around the turn of the 20th Century, a distinctive set of social and cultural reformist movements emerged in the Tamil-speaking region of Madras Presidency, one of the major administrative divisions of British colonial India. These movements, which were affiliated with thinkers such as Iyothee Thass, Maraimalai Adigal, and "Periyar" E.V. Ramasamy, articulated their reformist ideologies through the lens of a shared historical narrative that told the story of the "Aryan" or "Brahmin" subversion of an ancient and enlightened "Dravidian" or Tamil society indigenous to the Tamil South. This thesis argues that individual discursive terms such as "caste", "religion", "Tamil", and "Brahmin" in the "Dravidianist" discourse of these movements cannot be understood in isolation from each other; rather, they all participate in a semantic field that coheres around the core narrative of ancient Dravidian history.

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