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The Light of KnowledgeLiteracy Activism and the Politics of Writing in South India$
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Francis Cody

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780801452024

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801452024.001.0001

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On Being a “Thumbprint”

On Being a “Thumbprint”

Time and Space in Arivoli Activism

(p.25) 1 On Being a “Thumbprint”
The Light of Knowledge

Francis Cody

Cornell University Press

This chapter explores how activism works to produce senses of time and place among activists and villagers in the Arivoli Iyakkam. It focuses on ideological conflicts ensuing from a pedagogical desire to bring villagers within the narrative of the Indian development state, on one hand; and countervailing recognitions that Tamil villagers are already citizens with their own histories and senses of self that are not easily folded into the national narrative of progress, on the other. After examining the intellectual foundations of the literacy movement in the projects of state building, Left politics, and modern science, the chapter goes on to consider how the discourse of Enlightenment itself has undergone significant transformations in the process of the Arivoli Iyakkam becoming a mass movement in villages across the Tamil countryside. In their attempt to build a mass movement among villagers, the leaders of the Arivoli Iyakkam found that they had to ground their narrative of national awakening in forms of experience and knowledge that would make sense to those they would seek to compel.

Keywords:   Arivoli Iyakkam, social movements, literacy activism, Tamil Nadu, Enlightenment, Tamil villagers, mass movement

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