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"

AMULYA MANDAVA, then a graduate student at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, was awarded funding in April 2019 to aid research on “In/voluntary Attachments: Marriage and Caste Hierarchy in Tamil Nadu,” supervised by Dr. Ajantha Subramanian. This dissertation examines the relationship between voluntariness, marital kinship, and the production of caste and gender stratification in contemporary Tamil Nadu. Over the last decade, “inter-caste marriages” between Dalit men and dominant caste women in the South Indian state have become a highly politicized ground of contestation for a number of social actors invested in preserving caste hierarchies, as well as those invested in abolishing them. Taking inter-caste marriage as an entry point into broader questions of how caste, gender and kinship are organized in Tamil Nadu, it looks at three empirical sites in which the question of voluntariness — and particularly “women’s choices” — emerge as central to the configuration of caste and gender hierarchization. These sites include electoral political mobilization, mass media portrayals of marriages, and the police station. Research supported by this grant included extended ethnographic observation at All Women Police Stations in the Coimbatore area, interviews with activists and politicians, ethnographic research with inter-caste couples, and archival research and media analysis.