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Seminar by Prof.J.Devika

A seminar on “A Gendered History of the Rise of the Neo-Savarna in Twentieth Century Kerala” was held at the Joan Robinson Hall on July 5, 2019. The seminar was presented by Professor J. Devika, Professor, Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum.

Abstract: This paper tries to take small steps towards the larger project of understanding the larger gendered history and context in and through which such women have been enabled to connect with the Hindutva project in Kerala in the recent conflict around women’s entry into the Sabarimala temple. I argue that this requires nothing less than a fine-grained understanding of the reinscription of elite caste power in twentieth century Kerala – through the gradual shaping of what I call the ‘neo-savarna’ cultural formation, as an unfinished, if powerful, component of post-independence Malayali social formation – and the centrality of the mutation of aachaaram to this process. I trace the vicissitudes of aachaaram through the twentieth century and in the present, trying to discern the insertion of women as its custodians and guardians in the discourse of community reformism that produced the neo-savarna.