Marriage, Education, and Employment among Tamil Brahman Women in South India, 1891–2010*

Fuller, C J and Narasimhan, Haripriya (2013) Marriage, Education, and Employment among Tamil Brahman Women in South India, 1891–2010*. Modern Asian Studies, 47 (1). pp. 53-84. ISSN 0026-749X

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A hundred years ago, pre-puberty marriage for girls was the norm among South Indian Tamil Brahmans, and Brahman girls received little or no education. By the 1940s, child marriage had largely ended and girls’ education was improving gradually. Today, girls’ educational standards more or less match that of boys’, and many Brahman women are also employed outside the home. In relation to marriage and education in particular, the position of women has greatly improved, which is regarded by Tamil Brahmans themselves as a sign of their modern, educated, professional, middle-class status, whereas extreme gender inequality formerly indicated their traditional, high-caste status. This paper examines how female marriage, education, and employment are interrelated and how they have changed among Tamil Brahmans, particularly in the Eighteen-Village Vattima subcaste, which continued child marriage until the 1970s. Among Tamil Brahmans, as both women and men recognize, a real reduction in gender inequality has occurred. Moreover, Brahman men have more readily ceded status to Brahman women than Brahmans together have to non-Brahmans, so that there is a striking contrast today between persisting ideas of caste superiority and diminishing gender inequality.

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IITH Creators:
IITH CreatorsORCiD
Narasimhan, HaripriyaUNSPECIFIED
Item Type: Article
Additional Information: *For useful comments on an earlier draft of this paper, we thank Mukulika Banerjee, Henrike Donner, Johnny Parry, Mytheli Sreenivas, and Sylvia Vatuk, as well as participants at a workshop convened by Peter van der Veer at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen. We also thank the Economic and Social Research Council which has supported our research. Although this paper was written by C. J. Fuller, it has been discussed extensively with Haripriya Narasimhan and it represents our joint views.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Tamil, Brahman, Women, South India
Subjects: Social sciences > Anthropology
Social sciences > Asian Studies
Divisions: Department of Liberal Arts
Depositing User: Users 3 not found.
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2014 06:26
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2017 05:35
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