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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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Subject to Citizenship

Subject to Citizenship

Petitions and the Performativity of Signature

(p.171) 5 Subject to Citizenship
The Light of Knowledge

Francis Cody

Cornell University Press

Petitioning the state became an act of citizenship for Arivoli Iyakkam activists and their followers in a place where such appeals have long been understood in terms of subjection and even servitude. The literacy movement sought to democratize access to this mode of asserting citizenship by encouraging people who would previously have relied on others to write on their behalf to submit their own petitions at the district headquarters. This chapter examines the event of textual production itself in a decidedly postcolonial context of governance. It does so with the aim of understanding how competing logics of power have been imbricated through the petitioning process, and to make some sense of the dramatic increase in petitioning among rural women who have been encouraged by literacy activism. It pays special attention to how the Arivoli Iyakkam has sought to change the language of petitioning to fit its model of Enlightenment, focusing in particular on the tension between self-representation and self-determination.

Keywords:   Arivoli Iyakkam, petitioning, literacy activism, petition writing, citizenship, rural women, self-representation, self-determination

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