The Ninth Annual Conference on Tamil Studies
READING TAMIL PUBLICS: QUESTIONS OF AUDIENCE
May 3 – 5, 2013
As the authoritative 13th c. linguistic treatise Naṉṉūl knew well, research in Tamil demands engagement with a dynamic variety of expressive modes. Difference is everywhere marked—historical period, geographic extension, social footing, linguistic register, performative context—and Tamil authors of written and spoken texts attended to these differences as they sought the consideration of audiences. Who, across the dramatic range of public expressions of Tamil in its two millennia of textual expression, is eligible to listen and to participate? Such questions are particularly acute in the study of emerging Tamil modernities, of which colonial modernity is but one. In this rewarding array of papers, the ninth annual Berkeley Tamil Conference explores the role of audience in the articulation of Tamil language and culture. How is a listening public conceived, when shifting bonds of thinkers, creators, and addressees create new possibilities for expression, as well as new limits? From the pragmatics of acculturation, as infants learn to be social participants and youths become educated subjects, to new possibilities for vernacular expression in specialized cultural idioms, conference panelists will engage with processes of authorial intent and textual reception, understanding their critical place in the expression of community.
Esteemed cultural historian A.R. Venkatachalapathy, will draw upon his remarkable body of work on the development of print capitalism in colonial Tamilnadu to deliver his keynote address, The Birth of the Tamil Author.
FRIDAY, MAY 3, 2013
Venue: CSAS Conference Room, 10 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley
4:30 – 6:00 p.m. | KEYNOTE LECTURE
The Birth of the Tamil Author
A.R. Venkatachalapathy, Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS)
SATURDAY, MAY 4, 2013
Venue: 370 Dwinelle Hall, UC Berkeley
9:30 a.m. | REGISTRATION
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon | PANEL 1
Out of Love, a Death Forestalled
Bharat Venkat, University of California, Berkeley
Antigone in Postwar Northern Sri Lanka
Prof. Kaori Hatsumi, Kalamazoo College
Performativity in the Court of the Goddess
Prof. Kalpana Ram, Macquarie University, Australia
12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m. | LUNCH BREAK
1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. | PANEL 2
Elocutionary Incandescence: Charisma, Oratory, and Modern Revolution in Provincial South India
Prof. Bernard Bate, Yale-NUS College, Singapore
Worlds of Young Tamil Children
Prof. Margaret Trawick, Massey University, New Zealand
A House for Every Daughter, Tamil and Muslim Marriage in Sri Lanka Today
Prof. Dennis McGilvray, University of Colorado at Boulder
3:00 p.m. – 3:20 p.m. | BREAK
3:20 p.m. – 5:20 p.m. | PANEL 3
Prof. Rudhramoorthy Cheran, Prof. University of Windsor, Ontario
Prof. Sascha Ebeling, University of Chicago
SUNDAY, MAY 5, 2013
Venue: 370 Dwinelle Hall, UC Berkeley
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon | PANEL 4
An Ethical Education: The Late Nineteenth-Century Thinnal School and the Novels of A. Madhaviah
Kristen Bergman Waha, University of California, Davis
Shakthi Nataraj, University of California, Berkeley
Beloved Devotee! Viṣṇu’s Promise of Salvation to every Śrīvaiṣṇava
Prof. Bharati Jagannathan, Delhi University
12:00 noon – 12:15 p.m. | Collegiate Poster Session
Praying Through Politics, Ruling through Religion: The Rajarajeswaram as an Instrument of Economic and Political Unification in the Chola Empire
12:15 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. | Informal poster discussion over Lunch
PARTICIPANT BIOS & ABSTRACTS
Bernard BATE, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Yale-NUS College, National University of Singapore, is a linguistic and sociocultural anthropologist focusing on the theory, ethnography and history of language and political practice. Beginning with the ethnography of oratory in contemporary Tamilnadu his concerns also include the anthropology and history of language and modern social imaginaries such as the public sphere and democracy in India, Sri Lanka and the United States. He is the author of Tamil Oratory and the Dravidian Aesthetic (Columbia University Press, 2009).
Paper: Elocutionary Incandescence: Charisma, Oratory, and Modern Revolution in Provincial South India
Abstract: This paper tells a story about Tamil oratory and political mobilization in the southern Indian towns of Thoothukudi and Tirunelveli, Tamilnadu. Thoothukudi, a cotton mill town and port, was witness to an extraordinary series of large public meetings and work stoppages by a strange and fateful trio of charismatic young activists at the energetic apogee – and end – of the Swadeshi movement, India’s first modern political mobilization (1905-1908). While Anglophone political meetings of established men had been conducted for some decades, such meetings featuring Dravidophone oratory had never been seen before, certainly not directed in Tamil to mere laborers – coolies – people who had been excluded from or considered irrelevant to the larger structures of politics theretofore. This moment of oratorical incandescence lasted approximately thirty-five days, from 3 February through 9 March 1908, from humble beginnings to a violent end in an uprising and police shooting in the nearby district headquarters of Tirunelveli. These events provoked officials to prosecute the three leaders along with Swadeshi activists across Madras and India. Within a year all political activity of this sort had ceased and the Swadeshi movement was over. While the story of Thoothukudi is well known in Tamil political historiography, the communicative means, which appeared so central to them, have not been considered. This paper will focus in on what we can say about the speeches themselves and the events they provoked in a meditation on the relationship between vernacular public oratory and the emergence of political modernity in India.
Rudhramoorthy CHERAN, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, is a poet, author and journalist. He was the Deputy Editor of the Saturday Review in Jaffna and served as the Editor of the Saranihar newspaper in Sri Lanka. He was a founding member of the Free Media Movement in Sri Lanka.
Sascha EBELING, Associate Professor of Tamil and South Indian Studies in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, was trained in South Asian Studies, Romance Languages and Literatures, and General Linguistics at the University of Cologne, Germany, and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London. Before joining the University of Chicago in 2005, he taught Tamil literature and South Asian Studies at the University of Cologne and also worked for the Göttingen Academy of Sciences as a Tamil manuscriptologist in the project “Union Catalogue of Oriental Manuscripts in German Collections” (Katalogisierung der orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland, KOHD). His book Colonizing the Realm of Words: The Transformation of Tamil Literature in Nineteenth-Century South India was published by SUNY Press in 2010. Currently, he is working on two book projects: a history of the present moment in contemporary Tamil writing, mapping the genealogies of contemporary Tamil literary production from a global perspective; and a monograph with the working title The Imperial Rise of the Novel, which will address the connections between Western imperialism, Asian modernities and the global history of the novel, discussing a wide range of texts from Europe and Asia (India, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia). Professor Ebeling is also the recipient of the 2007 Forschungspreis (Research Award) of the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft (German Oriental Society) for his work on nineteenth-century Tamil literature, and of the 2008 Whiting Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Core teaching at the University of Chicago. In July 2010 he was honored with the award for Outstanding Achievement in Tamil Studies by the Tamil Literary Garden, Toronto. A part of his acceptance speech (in Tamil) was published by the Canadian Tamil newspaper தாய்வீடு Taay veedu. For a pdf of the article, click here.
Kaori HATSUMI is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at Kalamazoo College. She received her BA in Sociology in 2003 from Hitotsubashi University in Japan and her PhD in Anthropology in 2012 from Columbia University. In her dissertation, “War and Grief, Faith and Healing in a Tamil Catholic Fishing Village in Northern Sri Lanka,” she explored the experiences of terror and healing among Tamil Catholic victims of civil war. She has conducted a total of two and a half years of fieldwork in Sri Lanka between 2003 and 2010. She is currently turning her dissertation into a book and also working on her next project which is on Pentecostalism, charismatic oratory and democratic practices in Tamil Nadu.
Paper: Antigone in Postwar Northern Sri Lanka
Abstract: This paper looks at the death of a Sri Lankan domestic in Kuwait, the return of her body to her family and her funeral in November 2009 in northern Sri Lanka. I examine the importance of burial and the Tamil art of grieving in the local tradition of popular Catholicism, and by using her burial as a point of comparison, study what happens to a community of Tamil mourners when the bodies of the dead are not retrieved—as was the case with the body of every Tamil civilian who had died in the so-called No Fire Zone in early 2009 during the final phase of Sri Lanka’s civil war. The data is based on my fieldwork in northern Sri Lanka in an internal refugee camp for a Tamil Catholic fishing community in 2009. In addition to the significance of the Tamil art of grieving, or the lack thereof, for the community’s healing, I study the political economy of contemporary rural Sri Lanka by looking at the transformation of the community’s livelihood, which was no longer based on fishing solely, but on remittances from mothers working in the Middle East or on the minimal wage paid by foreign NGOs engaged in landmine removal work inside the former warzone.
Bharati JAGANNATHAN, a Visiting Scholar in the Department of South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania, teaches history at Miranda House, University of Delhi. She has studied the Srivaishnava religious tradition in early medieval Tamil Nadu, and is currently looking at women in the Srivaishnava tradition and in the Ramayana. She also writes fiction, both for children and adults.
Paper: Beloved Devotee! Visnu’s Promise of Salvation to every Śrīvaiṣṇava
Abstract: The Śrīvaisnava community based largely in Tamil Nadu and in parts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh venerates the Ālvārs as saints and devotees par excellence of Viṣṇu. In the songs of the Ālvārs, despair alternates with ecstasy, and hopelessness often follows expressions of fulfilment upon a meeting. Clearly, the saints, despite the overwhelming bhakti that allowed them to scold their divine lover, could not take Him for granted. Śrīvaiṣṇava theology, on the other hand, asserts the salvation of every devotee who takes refuge in Viṣṇu. This theological vision was expressed in stotras (poems of praise), in commentaries, in esoteric treatises and in the hagiographies. I will examine how this was achieved through the hagiographical accounts of Āndāl and Tiruppānālvār and relevant episodes in the lives of the other Ālvārs.
Tasha MANORANJAN is the founder and director of People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL), a non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to promoting human rights in Sri Lanka. She spent over a year documenting human rights violations committed against Tamil civilians in northern Sri Lanka, and remains committed to pursuing accountability for violations of international law. Tasha is currently an associate in Sidley Austin LLP’s Litigation Practice in the Washington, D.C. office. Tasha earned her law degree at Yale Law School, where she served as the Features Editor and Book Reviewer for the Yale Journal of International Law, Chair of the South Asian Law Students Association and Community Enrichment Chair of the Women of Color Collective. While at Yale, Tasha wrote a paper entitled “Beaten but not Broken: Tamil Women in Sri Lanka”, which was subsequently published at 11 Georgetown Journal of International Affairs 139 (2010). Tasha received her B.A., magna cum laude, in Justice and Peace Studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.
Dennis McGILVRAY is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Professor McGilvray’s ethnographic interests are in South Asia, with a research focus on the Tamils and Muslims of south India and Sri Lanka. His recent book, Crucible of Conflict (Duke 2008), analyzes matrilineal Hindu and Muslim kinship, caste structure, religious ritual, and ethnic identities in the Tamil-speaking region of eastern Sri Lanka, an area that has been deeply affected by the island’s civil war. He has co-edited with Michele Gamburd a collection of NSF project essays entitled Tsunami Recovery in Sri Lanka: Ethnic and Regional Dimensions (Routledge 2010). Currently he is exploring transnational Sufism and Muslim saints’ shrines in Sri Lanka and South India, as well as studying post-conflict marriage trends among Tamils and Moors in eastern Sri Lanka. A published photographer (Symbolic Heat, Mapin 1998), he is also interested in visual anthropology and alternative modes of cultural representation. At CU he teaches a lower division course on Tamil culture; upper division courses on Symbolic Anthropology, Foundations of Theory, and South Asian ethnography; and a graduate seminar on Ethnography and Cultural Theory.
Paper: A House for Every Daughter: Tamil and Muslim Marriage in Sri Lanka Today
Abstract: Based upon fieldwork conducted in 2010-12, this presentation will explore contemporary marriage and dowry practices among Tamils and Tamil-speaking Muslims (Moors, cōṉakar) in the easternmost districts of Sri Lanka, a region deeply affected by the 2004 tsunami and the Eelam Wars. This part of the island is well-known for its system of matrilineal descent through women and its matrilocal residence pattern in which the husband joins his wife’s family in a house provided to her as dowry (cītaṉam), or its functional equivalent, a prenuptial gift (naṉkoṭai). The matrilocal system has proven to be resilient: in the wake of the tsunami that destroyed countless homes owned by women, most newly-built NGO dwellings are clearly destined to become female-owned dowry houses in the next generation. Without a house, a daughter is nearly unmarriageable, so poor Tamil and Muslim women may take jobs as housemaids in the Gulf in order to construct dowry houses for themselves. Better-off women, however, benefit from their substantial dowry assets. In the domain of marriage choice, a majority of matches are still arranged, including a subset of traditional marriages between cross-cousins. However, love marriage is definitely increasing, including some romances initiated between cross-cousins themselves. The effects of travel, education, and global media can be seen in the changing traditions of Hindu and Muslim wedding ceremonies. Tamil Hindu weddings have added conventional Brahmanicized rites to older non-Brahmanical rituals, while Muslim weddings have reduced or eliminated local elements deemed non-Islamic. Locally-produced wedding videos now provide useful ethnographic information on both Tamil and Muslim marriage practices. The next stage of this project will be to determine more precisely how these Sri Lankan marriage patterns compare with other parts of the Tamil-speaking world.
Shakthi NATARAJ is a second-year graduate student in the PhD Anthropology program, and is pursuing a concurrent MA in Folklore. She studies the circulation of narratives of sex and violence among sexual minority rights activists and their allies in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Most recently she has been examining a series of recently published Tamil novels and autobiographies by sex workers, transgenders, and others interpellated as sexual minorities, paying special attention to the literary and linguistic conventions marking the texts, and the political histories they are in dialogue with.
Gita V. PAI is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse who is visiting Berkeley for the 2012-2013 academic year. Her general field of research and teaching interests concern the political, social, and cultural history of 17th to 21st century South Asia, particularly India. Her current book project focuses on the life of a monument in Tamilnadu sponsored by people who migrated into the area and left their distinct cultural imprint. She explores the site’s history from the early modern to contemporary period through various perspectives, such as politics, religion, art history, literature, visual culture, and gender studies.
Kalpana RAM is associate professor of anthropology in the Department of Anthropology, Macquarie University, Sydney, where she lectures on anthropology, phenomenology, gender, and India. She is also director of the university’s India Research Centre. Her latest book is Fertile Disorder: Spirit Possession and its Provocation of the Modern (University of Hawai’i Press).
Paper: Performativity in the Court of the Goddess
Abstract: This paper will select material from my book Fertile Disorder: Spirit Possession and its Provocation of the Modern (2013) in order to highlight the world-making performativity of Dalit mediums. The ethnography of Tamils and south India more generally is particularly rich in vignettes of such mediums (eg. Obeyeskere, Trawick, Clark-Deces, Lawrence, Schombucher), pointing to their ongoing importance to the region despite heavy odds ranged against them. Such women have only their performance in order to overcome the gulf of skepticism created by the marginalization of possession in projects of modernity in India. Armed only with their embodied skills and their own narratives of suffering prior to becoming mediums of the goddess, these women must overcome, however episodically, the fragility of their own cultural capital as women and as Dalits, if they are to transform spectators into devotees and bring justice and solace for those who come to them with complaints. Yet all this occurs during a state of possession. The paper will take the opportunity raised by such ‘performances’ and the innovations that are central to them, in order to raise some larger theoretical issues for us in terms of the assumptions regarding consciousness and agency that underlie currently available models of ‘performance’ and, as in the post-structuralist alternative, of ‘performativity’.
Preeti M. TALWAI is a fourth year undergraduate in the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley. She is completing a B.A. in Architecture with minors in History of the Built Environment and Sustainable Design. In 2011, Preeti was one of nine finalists for the Berkeley Prize essay competition and was awarded the 2011 Berkeley Prize Design Fellowship, with which she created and launched a student design competition in the Bay Area. She is interested in interdisciplinary research and writing about social aspects of the built environment, for which she has been recognized with Berkeley’s Library Prize for Undergraduate Research as well as the Kathryn Wayne Book Award for the best paper in architectural history. In the future, Preeti hopes to pursue advanced graduate degrees and work in academia at the intersection of architecture and psychology.
Paper: Praying Through Politics, Ruling through Religion: The Rajarajeswaram as an Instrument of Economic and Political Unification in the Chola Empire
Abstract: Sacred spaces throughout architectural history are rarely limited to reflecting religious ideology. Many layers of socio-cultural, political, or economic motives can be peeled away from seminal religious buildings built over the centuries. The Hindu temple of South India is no exception. At first a purely religious institution, it evolved into an imperial instrument with an influence far beyond the religious sphere. This research analyzes India’s first royally commissioned Hindu temple, the 11th century Rajarajeswaram (Sri Brihadeshwara) located in modern-day Tanjore. Built during the reign of Rajaraja Chola I, the edifice marked the shift to royal temple patronage and is considered the apex of Hindu temple architecture. Combining existing historical narratives, quantitative records transcribed from engravings, and visual evidence – architectural drawings and photographs – the research argues that Rajaraja Chola used the temple’s religiosity as an instrument to simultaneously appeal religiously to the masses, politically control, and economically aggrandize a newly expanded empire. Politically and religiously double-coded in its architectural forms, the temple transforms private devotion into a public spectacle, ultimately placing the empire’s subjects in the same service relationship to Rajaraja as he placed himself to the Lord.
Margaret TRAWICK taught anthropology in the United States for fourteen years before joining Massey University in 1992 as Professor of Social Anthropology. She taught there for seventeen years. She received her BA from Harvard in 1970, and her PhD in anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1978. She has carried out ethnography in villages of Tamil Nadu, and among Tamil speakers Sri Lanka. Her publications address the practice of Ayurveda in the far south of Tamil Nadu; Tamil poetry and poetics; the songs and narratives of rural Dalit women; spirit mediumship and possession; the anthropology of emotion, family and kinship; and, most recently, the war in Sri Lanka. Currently, Professor Trawick lives in the East Bay Area of San Francisco, remains affiliated as a research fellow at Massey University, and continues to pursue her longtime interest in the anthropology of children and childhood.
Paper: Worlds of Young Tamil Children
Abstract: I speak and write here about children between birth and the age of three. Children during these ages have been called “learning machines.” Trillions of neural connections are formed in the years after birth. These neural connections are all created in the child’s brain by learning from all sources. Later these connections are pruned down, ones that are not used die away, and the child becomes a fully encultured creature. Very young Tamil children live in many different environments, and build many different worlds inside and outside of their minds. Some learn their place in the family hierarchy — where there is one — by the age of two. Others learn the truth of warfare by that age. Others perceive the need for reconciliation at that age. Others are fed coffee instead of milk from birth to help stave off hunger. They learn not to cry for food. Others, born severely brain-damaged, learn their value to the community, which may be surprisingly high, by the age of one. Such very young children, learning their lives in Tamil contexts, will be discussed in this essay. While many Tamil people adore little children, and know how to keep them happy at least for a while, more scholars might engage more seriously with young Tamil children as a way to see Tamil worlds with more clarity.
Bharat VENKAT is a doctoral candidate in anthropology. His dissertation, Moral Failures: Co-Infected Histories and the Diagnostics of Disease in South India, examines the shifting morality of medical diagnoses in southern India. In 2012 Bharat Venkat was awarded the Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, the largest and most prestigious award for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences who are addressing questions of ethical and religious values.
Paper: Out of Love, a Death Forestalled
Abstract: In 2011, while I was conducting research in HIV clinics in Chennai, the media began presenting daily coverage of a Supreme Court case that had become a cause célèbre. Newspaper editorialists and television pundits regularly expounded their views on the theological, medical and legal issues at stake. The case itself involved a nurse from the southern state of Karnataka, Aruna Shanbaug, who had been working in the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Bombay. In 1973, Shanbaug had been raped and beaten by a ward boy, putting her into a vegetative state. She became a patient in the same hospital where she had worked, cared for by her fellow nurses. In 2010, the journalist Pinki Virani filed a plea for euthanasia in the Indian Supreme Court on behalf of Shanbaug. In a landmark decision, the Court ruled that that passive euthanasia was acceptable under certain strictly defined conditions – but not in this case. Turning from the tragic story of Shanbaug, I want to recount certain clinical encounters in Chennai in which HIV-positive patients were understood by clinicians and counselors to be asking for death. The ubiquity of the Shanbaug case in the media, as well as the timing of these requests for death in the clinic, make it highly likely that these patients knew something of the euthanasia ruling. As in the Shanbaug case, the question of legality emerged, in the form of Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, which prohibits suicide. But at the same time, the seemingly stronger argument that appeared in the court and in the clinics was about love: out of love, the love shared between those who might want to die and those who want them to live, death must be forestalled. This paper considers how love and law converged in the insistence that the living must continue to live.
A.R. VENKATACHALAPATHY is a historian, author and translator from Tamil Nadu, India who writes and publishes in Tamil and English. Currently he is a professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies. Though still a young scholar by Indian standards, has been hailed as a savant of sorts for his knowledge of the culture, politics, and history of Tamilnadu. His latest book, The Province of the Book: Scholars, Scribes, and Scribblers in Colonial Tamilnadu, just published by Permanent Black, focuses on the history and culture of books, book publishing, and book reading in Tamilnadu from the time of parchment to the time of Pagemaker, is interesting from the word go: it starts with four satirical epigraphs, three of which run as follows:
- In this age, when printing machines have become legion and the business in paper has expanded, novels have started to proliferate like termites.—review in Lakshmi (1924)
- Brother, listen to me. Take up some other occupation: never pursue this wretched profession of writing. Show me one person [in Tamilnadu] who has grown rich writing books and essays. How does it matter to us that Shaw and Chesterton have become millionaires by writing?—Kalki (1931)
- Two books sell the most in our society: one, the almanac; the other, the railway timetable.—C.N. Annadurai (1950)
Kristen Bergman WAHA is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at UC Davis. Her areas of interest include women’s writing and women’s educational reform issues in nineteenth-century British and French literature and South Asian literature in Tamil and English. She is currently working on a dissertation project that examines depictions of women’s education and reading practices in novels and autobiographies, particularly as this educational reform intersects with linguistic and cultural translation projects and conversions to and from Christianity, Hinduism, Theosophy and atheism.
Paper: An Ethical Education: The late nineteenth-century thinnai school and the novels of A. Madhaviah”
Abstract: This paper investigates the depictions of the traditional Tamil thinnai school and its methods of ethical and moral instruction in the English and Tamil novels of the late nineteenth-century writer A. Madhaviah. Both British and Indian educational reformers in late colonial India sometimes criticized the thinnai school for what these critics perceived as the practice of encouraging unreflective rote memorization of kurals without engaging the critical thinking skills of the young (mostly male) students. Himself an educational reformer, A. Madhaviah in his English novel Thillai Govindan (1903) seems to echo these criticisms in his depiction of Govindan’s early educational experiences in a thinnai school, where boys learn Tamil and Sanskrit verses that they cannot understand under the supervision of a lazy and ignorant schoolmaster. However, Madhaviah’s Tamil novelPadmavati Carittiram (1898-1899) also emphasizes the ethical dimension of kural memorization, showing this process as one where, as historian Bhavani Raman has suggested, students not only understand ethical knowledge but also embody it. Furthermore, Madhaviah’s own habit of quoting literary sources in his novels suggests the practice of recalling verses as a mode of applying ethical knowledge to practical situations; his quotations uncover similar principles of wisdom in both Tamil and English literary traditions through the juxtaposition of texts. Madhaviah’s novels thus attempt to recuperate traditional educational practices in thethinnai school for modern primary education in India.
Blake T. WENTWORTH is Assistant Professor of Tamil Studies in the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. He earned his PhD in the History of Religions at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. His publications include the forthcoming translation Kampan’s Ramayana: Youth for the Murty Classical Library of India, and Tamarind History, an English translation of the Tamil novel,Oru Puliyamarattin Katai, by Cuntara Ramacami