The Politics of Cultural Nationalism: The D.M.K. in Tamil Nadu, South India

Barnett, Marguerite R.

     This thesis is about cultural nationalism and political identity. It will examine the circumstances under which a specific political identity was formed, the way it was transformed, and the political consequences of this process. This process of identity formation and transformation will be examined in terms of the ideology and leadership of a radical political movement in Tamil Nadu state, South India. This movement, the Dravidian Movement, articulated a cultural nationalist position, emphasizing communal factors (in this case language and 'race') as the basis for political identity.
     This study will examine the rise of a political identity based on an ideology of cultural nationalism. In other words, this is a case study of the process of qualitative political transformation (i.e., political development). It is the purpose of this study to delineate the cultural, economic, and social bases for the rise and spread of cultural nationalism in Tamil Nadu, South India and to outline the role of political leadership in developing a broad gauged movement and later a successful political party based on cultural nationalism. This study will also examine the policy implication of the rise to power, within a larger territorial unit, of a party based on cultural nationalism (i.e., the formation by the D.M.K. of a government in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu). A correlative theme will be the transformation of the radical social goals of the movement and the relationship of this process to the rise of cultural nationalism. There were three specific questions this study sought to answer with respect to Tamil Nadu: (1) Why did a cultural nationalist ideology propagating a culturally defined, political identity arise? (2) How was this ideology spread and why was it accepted? (3) What were the policy consequences of its acceptance? Who wins? Who loses? Who makes decisions? What kinds of policy issues are stressed?

Lloyd Rudolph (chair), Duncan McRae, Leonard Binder