Blog post / Kerala’s Upper-Caste Women

Sruthi Herbert. “The Great Indian Kitchen: A Narrative of Upper-Caste Women’s Victimhood and Effortless Solidarities”.

Ala: A Kerala Studies Blog, March 2021.

Excerpt : Sruthi Herbert writes about The Great Indian Kitchen’s attempt to frame upper-caste women’s interests as all women’s interests. 

More info : http://ala.keralascholars.org/issues/31/the-great-indian-kitchen-caste/

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Podcast / Mruduladevi

മൃദുലാദേവി: ജാതീയത, സിനിമ, രാഷ്ട്രീയം

Ala: A Kerala Studies Blog, March 2021.

Excerpt : We speak with Mruduladevi S. about her multifaceted political interventions. Mruduladevi S. has become a well-recognised name after she composed beautiful songs in Paluva dialect for this year’s film The Great Indian Kitchen. However, for the past six years, she has been an active presence in Kerala’s cultural and political spheres as a Dalit–Ambedkarite feminist, writer, activist, and thinker.

More info : http://ala.keralascholars.org/issues/31/podcast-mruduladevi-caste-cinema-politics/

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Blog post / Electoral Politics in Kerala

J. Prabhash. “Kerala 2021: Electoral Politics in Times of Post-Truth”.

Ala: A Kerala Studies Blog, March 2021.

Excerpt : As Kerala gears towards Assembly Elections 2021, J Prabhash offers a critique of the strategies adopted by the major political fronts in the race to power, and the changing dynamics of Kerala’s electoral politics.

More info : http://ala.keralascholars.org/issues/31/kerala-2021-electoral-politics/

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Journal article / Welfare Schemes in Kerala for Transgender Individuals

Kurian, Megha, and Greeshma Manoj. ‘Transgenders in the Mainstream: Welfare Schemes in Kerala—Kochi Metro Rail Project, Education Programme, Health Clinics, and Old-Age Pension’. Indian Journal of Gender Studies. Published ahead of print, 15 March 2021.

Abstract (edited): Marginalisation is the process which inhibits an individual or community from enjoying the rights, privileges, resources, or opportunities enjoyed by other members of the society. Of all its marginalised sections, society most often tends to ignore the conditions of transgender persons. The 2011 census reported 480,000 of India’s population as transgender.

Kerala pioneered a model for a trans-friendly state with the launch of a 10-day-long state-wide survey, which was followed by a state policy for transgender individuals, a justice board, India’s first transgender school, scholarships for transgender individuals, health clinics, old-age pensions, and employment for them in the Kochi Metro as well as various literary, sports, and fashion events.

This study is an attempt to critically explore the welfare schemes for transgender persons in Kerala amidst recent developments.

More info: https://doi.org/10.1177/0971521521997961

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Journal article / Decolonising Knowledge of Dalits’ Christian Conversion

Paul, Vinil Baby. ‘Dalit Conversion Memories in Colonial Kerala and Decolonisation of Knowledge’. South Asia Research. Published ahead of print, 1 April 2021.

Abstract: This article seeks to decolonise knowledge of the conventional history of Dalits’ Christian conversion and its implications in colonial Kerala.

As the missionary archive is the only source of Dalit Christian history writing in Kerala, in this historiography social historians have been unable to include the memories of Protestant missionary work at the local level by the local people themselves. Their experiences and rich accounts are marked by dramatic actions to gain socio-economic freedom and to establish a safe environment with scope for future development.

This article identifies how Dalit Christians themselves, in a specific locality, remember their conversion history, suggesting thereby the scope for a valuable addition to the archive.

More info: https://doi.org/10.1177/02627280211000166
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Journal article / Migration to the Gulf: No End in Sight

Mufsin, Puthan Purayil, and Puthan Purayil Muhsin. ‘Return Migration amidst a Pandemic: Reflections on Kerala’s Gulf Migration’. Journal of Migration Affairs III, no. 1 (September 2020): 99–107.

Abstract (crafted): In 2020, almost 25% of Malayali expatriates in the Gulf countries expressed the desire to return to Kerala. In media discussions regarding the impact of Covid-19 on Kerala’s Gulf expatriates, this led many to predict the end of Kerala’s Gulf dream.

But a careful reading of Kerala’s migration story reveals a different reality. Using secondary data and observations from an ongoing ethnographic study of the Mappila Gulf migrants in Kerala’s northern migration belt, we argue that the long-standing circular movement between Kerala and the Persian Gulf states is not over.

More info and full text: https://doi.org/10.36931/jma.2020.3.1.99-107

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Event / Throne Diplomacy

Transcultural Objects and Colonial Realpolitik in the Princely State of Travancore, India: The History of Queen Victoria’s Ivory Throne

hosted by International Institute for Asian Studies (Leiden, Netherlands)

7 April 2021 (Wednesday)
14:00 hrs Central European Summer Time (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
webinar (registration link)
in English

About the event: In 1876, Queen Victoria took the title of Empress of India. Her first official photograph shows her dressed in all black, seated regally on an exquisite ivory throne. The photograph is about the Empress, front and centre. But over her head, like a spectre, rises the pinnacle of the throne. This pinnacle is not the heraldic British lion but a conch shell, the symbol for the king of Travancore.

In this talk, Deepthi Murali examines the transcultural nature of the production of art objects in the mid-19th century in the princely state of Travancore, India, through the study of an ivory throne and footstool made for Queen Victoria. Presented to her as a gift on the occasion of The Great Exhibition of 1851 by Uthram Thirunal Martanda Varma, the king of Travancore, the throne quickly became one of the most popular exhibits. Later, it became part of the imperial interiors, and in 1876, it became Victoria’s chair of state.

The throne’s popularity gave birth to an international ivory carving industry in Travancore that employed many lower caste artists for the next century. Moreover, the transcultural nature of the throne made it an object capable of diplomatic communiqué between an endangered princely state and the British imperial centre at a time when the British East India Company continued direct rule on the subcontinent.

The ‘throne diplomacy’, as Deepthi Murali calls it, demonstrates the ability of transcultural objects to mediate between different cultural spheres, especially in spaces where human mediation was perhaps not possible. Simultaneously, Murali enumerates the nature of transcultural artistic production and processes in the sub-imperial princely sphere in the mid-19th century.

About the speaker: Deepthi Murali is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. She received her PhD in Art History from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Deepthi’s current projects include converting her dissertation ‘Transculturality, Sensoriality, and Politics of Decorative Arts of Travancore, India’ into a book and a digital art history project on 18th-century Indian cotton textiles. Deepthi is also deeply interested in the dissemination of scholarship as public history, which she does through her website and podcast. Her research and work have been funded by the American Institute of Indian Studies, Yale Centre for British Art, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

More info: https://www.iias.asia/events/transcultural-objects-and-colonial-realpolitik-princely-state-travancore-india-history-queen

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Event / Ancient Systems of Writing

കേരളത്തിലെ പ്രാചീന ലിപികൾ (Ancient Systems of Writing in Kerala)

hosted by Kerala Council for Historical Research, Thiruvananthapuram (India)

7 April 2021 (Wednesday)
3:00 p.m. IST (India)
via Google Meet (event link)
in Malayalam

About the event: This is a part of KCHR’s web talk series on ‘Evolution of Kerala Society’ for students.

കേരള ചരിത്രത്തിൻ്റെ വികാസവും പരിണാമവുമായി ബന്ധപ്പെട്ട വിഷയങ്ങൾ, അക്കാദമിക പ്രാധാന്യത്തോടെ, വിദ്യാർത്ഥികൾക്ക് പ്രയോജനപ്രദമാകുന്ന രീതിയിൽ, ചർച്ച ചെയ്യുന്നതിന് കെ.സി.എച്ച്.ആർ ആരംഭിച്ച ‘കേരള സമൂഹത്തിന്റെ പരിണാമം’ സീരീസിലെ അടുത്ത വെബ്ടോക്കിൽ ‘കേരളത്തിലെ പ്രാചീന ലിപികൾ’ എന്ന വിഷയത്തിൽ പ്രമുഖ ചരിത്രകാരനായ പ്രൊഫസർ എം ആർ രാഘവ വാരിയർ പ്രഭാഷണം നടത്തുന്നു.

About the speaker: M. R. Raghava Varier is Director, Centre for Heritage Studies (Thrippunithura, Kerala). A noted epigraphist, he was Professor of History at Calicut University.

More info: About the web talk series at and all upcoming programmes of KCHR at http://kchr.ac.in/pages/172/Upcoming-Programs-2021.html

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Journal article / Runaway Slaves and Religious Conversion in Colonial Kerala, 1816–1855

Paul, Vinil Baby. ‘“Onesimus to Philemon”: Runaway Slaves and Religious Conversion in Colonial “Kerala”, India, 1816–1855’. International Journal of Asian Christianity 4, no. 1 (March 2021): 50–71.

Abstract (edited): Social and economic aspects predominate the study of religious conversion among the lower castes in Kerala. Most of these studies only explored the lower caste conversion after the legal abolition of slavery in Kerala (1855). The existing literature followed the mass movement phenomena.

These studies ignored the slave lifeworld and conversion history before the abolition period, and they argued that through religious conversion, the former slave castes began breaking social and caste hierarchy with the help of Protestant Christianity. The dominant Dalit Christian historiography does not open the complexity of slave Christian past.

Against this background, this paper explores the history of slave caste conversion before the abolition period. From the colonial period, missionary writings bear out that the slaves were hostile to and suspicious of new religions. They accepted Christianity only cautiously. It was a conscious choice, even as many Dalits refused Christian teachings.

More info: https://doi.org/10.1163/25424246-04010004
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Journal article / (OA) How Sabarimala Temple Entry Issue Played Out on TikTok

Vijay, Darsana, and Alex Gekker. ‘Playing Politics: How Sabarimala Played Out on TikTok’. American Behavioral Scientist. Published ahead of print, 25 January 2021.

Abstract (edited): TikTok is commonly known as a playful, silly platform where teenagers share 15-second videos of crazy stunts or act out funny snippets from popular culture. In the past few years, it has experienced exponential growth and popularity, unseating Facebook as the most downloaded app.

Interestingly, recent news coverage notes the emergence of TikTok as a political actor in the Indian context. They raise concerns over the abundance of divisive content, hate speech, and the lack of platform accountability in countering these issues.

In this article, we analyse how politics is performed on TikTok and how the platform’s design shapes such expressions and their circulation. What does the playful architecture of TikTok mean to the nature of its political discourse and participation?

To answer this, we review existing academic work on play, media, and political participation. We situate our examination of TikTok within the contentious issue of women’s entry into Sabarimala [in Kerala], a temple that women of menstruating age are barred from entering on religious grounds. We examine the case of Sabarimala through the double lens of ludic engagement and platform-specific features.

The efficacy of play as a productive heuristic to study political contention on social media platforms is demonstrated. Finally, we turn to ludo-literacy as a potential strategy that can reveal the structures that order playful political participation and can initiate alternative modes of playing politics.

More info and full text (OA): https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764221989769

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