Tamil Brahmans: The Making Of A Middle-class Caste

Paperback | October 3, 2014

byC. J. Fuller, Haripriya Narasimhan

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A cruise along the streets of Chennai—or Silicon Valley—filled with professional young Indian men and women, reveals the new face of India. In the twenty-first century, Indians have acquired a new kind of global visibility, one of rapid economic advancement and, in the information technology industry, spectacular prowess. In this book, C. J. Fuller and Haripriya Narasimhan examine one particularly striking group who have taken part in this development: Tamil Brahmans—a formerly traditional, rural, high-caste elite who have transformed themselves into a new middle-class caste in India, the United States, and elsewhere.

Fuller and Narasimhan offer one of the most comprehensive looks at Tamil Brahmans around the world to date. They examine Brahman migration from rural to urban areas, more recent transnational migration, and how the Brahman way of life has translated to both Indian cities and American suburbs. They look at modern education and the new employment opportunities afforded by engineering and IT. They examine how Sanskritic Hinduism and traditional music and dance have shaped Tamil Brahmans’ particular middle-class sensibilities and how middle-class status is related to the changing position of women. Above all, they explore the complex relationship between class and caste systems and the ways in which hierarchy has persisted in modernized India. 

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A cruise along the streets of Chennai—or Silicon Valley—filled with professional young Indian men and women, reveals the new face of India. In the twenty-first century, Indians have acquired a new kind of global visibility, one of rapid economic advancement and, in the information technology industry, spectacular prowess. In this book,...

C. J. Fuller is emeritus professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics. He is the author of several books, including The Camphor Flame and The Renewal of the Priesthood. Haripriya Narasimhan is assistant professor of social anthropology and sociology at the Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad.  

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.8 inPublished:October 3, 2014Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022615274X

ISBN - 13:9780226152745

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“This historical analysis of ‘TamBrams,’ written by a unique combination of sociologists, both insider and outsider, provides essential fleshing out of our sociological understanding of caste and class, which has tended to concentrate on the lower end of the caste spectrum. It shows how it is not merely the lower castes who invoke their ‘caste identity’ in contrast to the castelessness and ‘merit’ of the middle classes, but that caste has been critical to the formation and professional success of an urban, ‘modern’ middle class like the Tamil Brahmans. This book is an indispensible read not just for all those who wish to understand caste formation, mobility, and change over the past two centuries, but also for Tamil Brahmans themselves. It will help them rethink the notion that their professional achievements are somehow exceptional and biologically rooted in their caste and see them instead as a product of the opportunities provided by the colonial and postcolonial state.”