Of Light, Literacy, and Knowledge in the Tamil Countryside
This introductory chapter provides an overview of the book's main themes. The Arivoli Iyakkam, the “Light of Knowledge,” or “Enlightenment,” is a social movement in rural India which sought to make political agents of rural women and to disseminate scientific knowledge through the spread of written language. From 1990 until the movement ended in 2009, the Arivoli Iyakkam mobilized huge numbers of people from across the Tamil countryside. This book focuses on the contradictions in the project of Enlightenment that emerged over the course of two decades in rural Tamil Nadu. In their endeavors to remake the Tamil countryside through literacy activism, workers in the movement found that their own understanding of the politics of writing and enlightenment was often transformed in the encounter with deeply rooted practices surrounding entirely different notions of language and imaginations of social order.
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