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Sekine, Yasumasa (1993) Pollution theory and Harijan strategies among South Indian Tamils. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis considers the concepts of purity and pollution in a Tamil village context from a cosmological or religious viewpoint. Thus it contrasts with the Dumontian understanding which I argue is dominated by a 'secular' point of view. This approach enables us to clarify the ideological situation of the village Harijans (ex-Untouchables) and to properly analyze their practices. This ultimately contributes to the still inadequate studies of Harijans. The reconsideration of pollution from a cosmological viewpoint, which leads us to focus on pollution associated with life crises and the cults of local deities, elucidates the essential (deep) dimension of pollution which I term "pollution". That is, "pollution" indicates the creative dimension of pollution which contains the logic of sacrifice. In this sense, "pollution" should be clearly distinguished from the shallow dimension of pollution, defined as "impurity", which has an unambiguously negative connotation as the opposite of "purity". Through a comparison of the practices of the dominant castes in the village (the Pillais and the Kallars) and those of the Harijans (the Paraiyars), in terms of funeral ceremonies, cults of lineage deities and the activities of the local Milk Cooperative Society, it is revealed that the dominant castes and the dominated Paraiyars primarily share a basic Tamil culture which holds "pollution" ideology as its fundamental value, even though the dominant castes manipulate the ideology of "purity-impurity" for their social domination. It is also argued that the practices of the Paraiyars can not be understood by a static and simplistic viewpoint, like that of consensus and disjunction theories, but that they should be interpreted as complex procedures which are strategies for seeking self-development. The findings of this thesis, therefore, are that between the dominant castes and the Harijans there is both cultural consensus based on "pollution" ideology and disjunction in terms of their interpretative and strategic manoeuvres.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:03

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