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Transnational Research Group – Poverty Reduction and Policy for the Poor between the State and Private Actors: Education Policy in India since the Nineteenth Century




8 June

A.R. Venkatachalapathy (Madras Institute of Development Studies)
From Pulavar to Professor: Policy, politics and professionalization of Tamil Pandits, 1812-1949

TRG Event

Venue: German Historical Institute London

This lecture traces the changing status of Tamil pulavars, or pandits, in colonial Tamilnadu. Pulavars encountered colonial modernity through the College of Fort St George established in 1812 to train civil servants in Indian languages. Following Macaulay’s minute of 1835, the policy of imparting western education undermined the status of language teachers. Hierarchizing languages as ‘classical’ and ‘vernacular’ further impacted the professionalization of Tamil teachers. Pulavars received substantially lower salaries, and could not hold administrative posts. Seen as symbols of a lost world, the carriers of a hidebound tradition, and therefore impediments to modernity they were objects of ridicule. However, Orientalist scholarship – exemplified by Caldwell’s A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian Languages (1856) – empowered the Tamil language, contributing to the formation of a new identity based on language, ‘race’, and caste: Tamil, Dravidian, and Non-Brahmin. Tamil teachers were mobilized by this movement for a new identity – a key moment being the anti-Hindu agitation (1937-39) – which enhanced their social status.

A.R. Venkatachalapathy is a professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai. He is also a Tamil writer, translator, and editor. A recipient of the V.K.R.V. Rao Prize (History, 2007), his publications include In Those Days There Was No Coffee: Writings in Cultural History (2006) and The Province of the Book: Scholars, Scribes, and Scribblers in Colonial Tamilnadu (2012).

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27-29 September

Poverty and Education from the Nineteenth Century to the Present: India and Comparative Perspectives

Max Weber Foundation Transnational Research Group - India “Poverty Reduction and Policy for the Poor between the State and Private Actors: Education Policy in India since the Nineteenth Century”

Venue: German Historical Institute London

Programme (PDF file)

11-12 December

History and Democracy

TM1 Conference, CSDS Delhi

Convenors: Shail Mayaram, Prathama Banerjee, Ravi Vasudevan (all CSDS)

Conference programme (PDF file)