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Sumathi Ramaswamy, Passions of the tongue: Language devotion in Tamil India, 1891–1970. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Pp. xxiii, 303. Hb $50.00, pb $20.00.

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 October 1999

Stuart Blackburn
Affiliation:
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, London WC1H 0XG, Englandsb12@soas.ac.uk

Abstract

In 1964 a South Indian man doused himself with kerosene and set himself alight, shouting, “Long live Tamil! Down with Hindi!” This act of self-sacrifice (followed by several more) provides the starting point for this long-overdue history of the Tamil language movement. In seeking to explain this extreme devotion to Tamil, Ramaswamy quickly points out that the usual answer of “linguistic nationalism” is inadequate. “Nationalism” is a blunt instrument, honed in the study of modern Europe, and “passions of the tongue do not readily map onto passions of the nation” (5). As a corrective, Ramaswamy sets out to write a “different” history of this extraordinary, possibly unique language movement by introducing the concept of tamilparru ‘devotion to Tamil’.

Type
Book Review
Copyright
© 1999 Cambridge University Press

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Sumathi Ramaswamy, Passions of the tongue: Language devotion in Tamil India, 1891–1970. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Pp. xxiii, 303. Hb $50.00, pb $20.00.
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Sumathi Ramaswamy, Passions of the tongue: Language devotion in Tamil India, 1891–1970. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Pp. xxiii, 303. Hb $50.00, pb $20.00.
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Sumathi Ramaswamy, Passions of the tongue: Language devotion in Tamil India, 1891–1970. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. Pp. xxiii, 303. Hb $50.00, pb $20.00.
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