Trois générations de CAKKILIYARS au Tamil Nadu témoignent des changements intercastes. Les représentations mémorielles au service de l'histoire

Student thesis: Doc typesDoctor of Languages, Letters and Translation


This PhD research focuses on untouchables’ (Dalits) perceptions of their past and more specifically on the transformations that occurred at the inter-caste level. For that sake, more than 60 testimonies have been collected. The investigations have been centered around three generations of people in two communities of the cakkiliyar caste in Tamil Nadu (South India). Firstly, the following main questions have been addressed : How did these cakkiliyar communities drift from one state to another in the lapse of 40 years? How did the inter-caste relationships evolve? Which were the main triggering factors and their consequences? What was the impact on people’s minds and mentalities? At the micro level and with the help of oral testimonies, this work endeavors to highlight the past of these communities and to ‘un-knit’ the social, political, cultural and economic changes that 'made the difference' at the local level with reference to the dalit/non-dalit relationship. A strong difference of dynamics emerges from the study of the two villages, it is largely highlighted throughout the work. Secondly, memory issues are investigated. Interestingly, although Dalits share a common past, they bear witness in many different ways. People’s mindset today largely influences the perspective each one adopts while speaking about the past. Three main prototypes defining the different postures can be observed in cakkiliyar oral testimonies: a) the prototype of “Dalits” looking for their dignity, b) the hesitant “Cakkiliyars” and, c) the submissive “Harijans”. Each of these prototypes implies a certain mindset, a specific behavior, some specific aspirations for the future and a certain posture towards the past and history: from strong dissent and expression of agency to resignation and bemoaning their fate, from volubility to silence, from interest to detachment.
Date of Award9 May 2014
Original languageFrench
Awarding Institution
  • University of Namur
SupervisorANNE ROEKENS (Supervisor), STEPHANE LEYENS (Supervisor), Etienne Renard (Jury), Nicolas DEJENNE (Jury), François GROS (Jury) & Christine Machiels (Jury)

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