The Political Culture of a Community in Change: The Nadars of Tamilnad

Hardgrave, Robert L.

     In [this] exploration of the relationship between political sentiment and behavior, on the one hand, and the structure of society, on the other, the unit of analysis [is] a single caste, a community in motion over time, in the social space between village, on the one hand, and province and nation, on the other. . . . The study [is] both diachronic and synchronic, as it focuses upon the process through which the caste enters the political system and upon its role in political life.
     The caste selected for analysis is the Nadar caste community of Tamilnad. The dissertation describes how the Nadars, in one hundred and fifty years of change, have moved from the lower rungs of the ritual hierarchy to a position of status and power . . . have increasingly abandoned their traditional occupation of toddy-tapping, and, as they have risen in education and wealth, . . . differentiated occupationally and economically. In the course of describing the history of the Nadars, the following topics are considered: caste and politics; the history, geography, and castes of the southern districts; the condition and traditional status of the Nadars; the impact of missionaries, Nadar Christians, and the breast-cloth controversy; the mythology of the changing caste; urban Nadars in Ramnad and Tinnevelly; the Nadar Mahajana Sangam; Nadars and national politics; and Nadars and local politics.

Leonard Binder (chair), Duncan MacRae, Lloyd Rudolph