Amulya Mandava

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Harvard U.

Grant number

Gr. 9832

Approve Date

April 30, 2019

Project Title

Mandava, Amulya (Harvard U.) "In/voluntary Attachments: Marriage and Caste Hierarchy in Tamil Nadu"

From the 1960s onwards, certain dominant caste communities consolidated political and economic power in Tamil Nadu, a process contingent upon the subordination and exclusion of lower-caste Dalit communities. Since the 1990s, however, Dalit political and economic mobilization has increased, challenging dominant-caste supremacy. While much of the contestation between the two caste groups has arisen over such issues as electoral politics or land ownership, more recently, inter-caste marriages between Dalit men and dominant-caste women have become a key focus–provoking violence, electoral contestation, and the proliferation of NGOs and state policies targeted towards aiding inter-caste couples. This research project addresses the interaction of caste politics, struggles over marriage, and inequality in Tamil Nadu. I ask: Why has inter-caste marriage become a site of contestation in the present moment in Tamil Nadu? What transformations in caste belonging are dominant caste and Dalit actors struggling with in their attempts to manage marriages? This research seeks to address these questions by closely analyzing the relationship between marriage, caste belonging, and conceptions of freedom and the voluntary.