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Scenes of Abjection: Power, Sexuality and Caste in Modern Tamil Literature


This dissertation traces the figure of the sexual abject in modern Tamil literature produced between the mid nineteen sixties and the first decade of the twenty first century. Drawing primarily from psychoanalytic scholarship and Western literary criticism, I look at abjection as a structural form of marginality that threatens and reconfigures meaning and subjectivity, thus enabling the possibility of self-remaking. I draw attention to the consistent textual equation between femininity and abjection and note a shift in the representation of the sexual abject in Tamil literature produced from the nineteen sixties onwards that is multiply marginalized along axes of sexuality, caste and religion. For the sexual abject of this period, embracing abjection, I suggest, is the only available means of exercising any agency even at the risk of reinforcing the structural constraints that constitute and limit such agency. I focus on the abject body that now marked low caste and poor, becomes a strategic site of resistance against sexual violence and exploitation.

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