Religion, Caste and Nation: Discourses of Identity and Power in Telugu Journals of the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century

Research Project sponsored by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Council); Research period: Dec. 2006 - Feb. 2009

Associate: Dr. Heiko Frese

Early Telugu and English journals have hardly been used as sources for historical research concerning today's Andhra Pradesh, part of the former Madras Presidency. The voices of indigenous intellectuals, which were governing the contents of these journals, discussing and generating discourses, have not yet been reflected scientifically. These voices will be made accessible and documented through paradigmatic translations and analyses of the sources.

In the Telugu intellectual centres of the Madras Presidency, a number of perspectives on caste, nation and religion were discussed, which seem to be significantly different from the reform movements in Tamil speaking circles and regions. The characteristics of this Telugu discourse will be studied in this project on the basis of the following research questions: What kind of categories and discourses are noticeable in the journals? How do they correspond to Western perspectives? How did these documented processes relate to events in the adjacent regions, especially in the Tamil South?

The aim of the project is to analyse the cultural and social history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in the Telugu speaking parts of the Madras Presidency. It will thus contribute to research pertaining to the specific characteristics of Telugu identity at that time. As nowadays political parties aiming at a partitioning of Andhra Pradesh gain influence, questions affecting Telugu identity are of immediate political relevance. They reveal the hybridity of a collective Telugu identity and point to its historical genesis.