Nominated | Book Awards 2019 | English Non-fiction
Tamilnadu’s politics and culture befuddle outside observers. Ruled for half a century by two regional parties – DMK and AIADMK – its politics has been marked by language pride, non-Brahmin movement, caste-based reservation, regionalism, welfare populism, and cinema. Despite the negative coverage it tends to get from outside, Tamilnadu is a developed state scoring high on all human development indicators. In Tamil Characters, noted historian A. R. Venkatachalapathy provides a ringside view of contemporary Tamilnadu beginning with an assessment of political figures such as Periyar and Anna, Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, and significant poets, writers and thinkers including Subramania Bharati and Iyotheethos Pandithar. The final section discusses contentious issues such as language politics, prohibition, jallikattu and Dalit rights.
A. R. Venkatachalapathy (b. 1967) is a professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai. He studied in Chennai before doing a PhD in history at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Chalapathy has taught at Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, Tirunelveli; the University of Madras; and the University of Chicago. He has held research assignments in Paris, Cambridge, London, and Harvard. He was the Indian Council for Cultural Relations Chair in Indian studies at the National University of Singapore (2011–12). He has published widely on the social, cultural, and intellectual history of colonial Tamilnadu. Apart from his writings in English he has written and published extensively in Tamil. His more than thirty books include non-fiction, compilations, scholarly editions and translations. Over the last few years he has been writing in the popular media. He was awarded the VKRV Rao Prize for History in 2007. Presently he is working on a biography of Periyar.