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Language, Emotion, and Politics in South India

The Making of a Mother Tongue

Lisa Mitchell

Publication Year: 2009

What makes someone willing to die, not for a nation, but for a language? In the mid-20th century, southern India saw a wave of dramatic suicides in the name of language. Lisa Mitchell traces the colonial-era changes in knowledge and practice linked to the Telugu language that lay behind some of these events. As identities based on language came to appear natural, the road was paved for the political reorganization of the Indian state along linguistic lines after independence.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Contemporary Indian Studies


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xv

Far too many people have contributed either directly or indirectly to the researching and writing of this book to make it possible to mention them all; however, the following people do require special acknowledgment. Professor Velcheru Narayana Rao and Christopher Chekuri opened up a new world for me ...

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Note on Transliteration and Spelling

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pp. xvii

Words from Indian languages that are commonly recognized in English, contemporary place-names, and personal names have been transliterated without diacritics. For all other terms transliterated from Indian languages, long vowels are marked (ā as in hot; ī as in deep; ū as in fool; ē as in fade; ō as in hope), ...

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Introduction: A New Emotional Commitment to Language

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pp. 1-34

What conditions must exist in order for someone to be willing to die, not for a nation, but for a language? How must one think and feel about language for this to be possible? Southern India has become famous during the twentieth century as a place where many have appeared to experience such heightened passion for language ...

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1. From Language of the Land to Language of the People: Geography, Language, and Community in Southern India

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pp. 35-67

Between the 1893 second edition of Gurujada Sriramamurti’s Lives of Poets, in which his unprecedented appeal to those having an emotional attachment to the language of the Telugu country first appeared, and the 1913 third edition, which contained the same preface, a subtle but significant change was made to the opening line. ...

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2. Making a Subject of Language

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pp. 68-99

By the twentieth century, in addition to the shift from language as a feature of the landscape to language as a defining characteristic of individuals, a second transformation was under way in the representation of language in southern India. The Telugu language, like many other languages used in India, ...

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3. Making the Local Foreign: Shared Language and History in Southern India

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pp. 100-126

While conducting fieldwork in 1998, I met a longtime friend who had married the previous year. Born and brought up in the city of Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, my friend—a schoolteacher educated in English medium schools who had grown up speaking primarily Telugu at home and English, Telugu, and Hindi ...

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4. From Pandit to Primer: Pedagogy and Its Mediums

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pp. 127-157

On November 22, 1820, Vennelakanty Subba Rao (Vennelacunty Soob Row), translator and interpreter in the Madras Sudr [High] Court, addressed a long letter to the newly formed Madras School Book Society, to which he had just been nominated as a member. In his letter he describes in detail existing educational practices ...

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5. From the Art of Memory to the Practice of Translation: Making Languages Parallel

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pp. 158-188

When Vennelakanty Subba Rao made his recommendations to the Madras School Book Society in 1820, he was not just interested in the improvement of students’ use of unbounded, undifferentiated language in general. Nor was he exclusively interested in the improvement of one particular language over all others. ...

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6. Martyrs in the Name of Language? Death and the Making of Linguistic Passion

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pp. 189-212

India’s new linguistic states, advocated from the 1910s onward and brought into existence in the 1950s, have been widely heralded as more fairly representing the needs and desires of the populace and correcting the historical injustices created by colonial administrative territories. ...

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Conclusion: Language as a New Foundational Category

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pp. 213-218

The question that remains is whether the violence of 1952 could have been read so easily as evidence of the unified passions of the masses for linguistic statehood had it not been for the many shifts in the representation of and relationship to language that had occurred during the previous century. ...


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pp. 219-254


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pp. 255-270


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pp. 271-281

E-ISBN-13: 9780253002891
E-ISBN-10: 0253002893
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253353016

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 6 b&w photos, 5 maps
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Contemporary Indian Studies