CTF 2019: Never Alone: The Linguistic Ecologies of Tamil

May 23-25, 2019

One foundational insight from sociolinguistics and anthropology (though it is not theirs alone, of course) are that languages and cultures are never alone but are the product—even in (and especially in) their seeming self-same identity—of process of blurring and separation, negotiation and contestation. Variously theorized in different traditions as contact, hybridization, syncretization, mixing, or heteroglossia, such questions of identity and difference haunt the history of Tamilagam and its study. A constant issue in the south of the subcontinent, from the earliest historical times to the present, are the ways in which that Tamil is in intimate and contentious contact with various Others—Sanskrit and Prakrit in the past, Hindi and English in the present (to say nothing of other contact zones with neighboring Indic languages and other European languages)—be it at the level of linguistic structure, discourse genres, literature, visual arts, among other culture domains. As in other places, such complex entanglements are the very stuff of political life—the most recent, and well-studied perhaps, being the region’s post-colonial history of linguistic nationalism, the Dravidian movement—though earlier periods, and other places beyond India (e.g., Sri Lanka, Malaysia) and South Asia (e.g., in diasporic Canada), have evinced comparable moments of identity formation and differentiation. This workshop brings together scholars from a number of disciplines (linguistics, anthropology, history, literature) to think about these entangled linguistic and cultural ecologies of Tamil and its Others, the structuration of the conjuctures between and within such ecologies and their sedimentation into different regimes of language and identity, and the limits therein.

Thursday, May 23, 2019
Keynote address
Srilata Raman (University of Toronto)
The Language of Christians and Christian-Tamil: The Peculiar Jounrey of the 17th-century Saivite Poet Tayumanavar.” (5pm, Foster Hall)

Friday, May 24, 2019 (Haskell Hall)

– E. Annamalai (University of Chicago), “கொங்குதேர் வாழ்க்கை: Cross Pollination of Ideas and Imagination.”

– Sonia Das (New York University), “View from the Streets: The Interdiscursive Ethnohistory of French-Tamil Transliteration.” (Published in Signs and Society)

– Whitney Cox (University of Chicago), “Before Manipravalam: Notes on the Linguistic Ecology of a Medieval Brahmadeyam.”

– Srilata Raman (University of Toronto), “Useless Words: The Obsolescence of the Ningandus in the Tamil Literary Tradition.” (Working Papers of the Chicago Tamil Forum)

Saturday, May 25, 2019 (Haskell Hall)

– Christina Davis (Western Illinois University), “Trilingual Blunders: Signboards, Social Media, and Transnational Sri Lankan Tamil Publics.” (Published in Signs and Society)

– Torsten Tschacher (Freie Universität Berlin), “Rendering the Word of God.”

– Preetha Mani (Rutgers University), “Modernist Realism: The Literary Historical Imperative of Postindependence Indian Literatures.”

– Sascha Ebeling (University of Chicago), “The Many Shakespeares of Rao Bahadur Pammal Campanta Mutaliyar (1873–1964): Shakespeare in Colonial South India and the History of Modern Tamil Drama.”