A Story to be Told: Seeing Ethnic Malayalee on the World Stage

Author: Sasikumar V.K. (Jawaharlal Nehru University, India)
Speaker: Sasikumar V.K.
Topic: Language, Community, Ethnicity
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2020 General Session


Before the British colonised in this part of the world, there were many rajas (kings) ruled the state-Kerala was not existed and Malayalee as an ethnic did not find. All it was existed different caste groups, which had their own languages, rituals, marriage systems, food pattern, customary and traditional clothings. How language standardization helped significantly to achieve the task of finding ethnic Malayalee identity in the sea of ethnic nationalities in India and the world over.

What is then we call language? Is it only something which help communicate ideas embedded in a cultural milieu? Language plays a major role in communication among people, it unites them and a ground for cultural entity, thereby claim a community status, a political salvo to unite them and a vista of ethic identity. Malayalee ethnic identity occurred during the period of colonial onslaught and Indian freedom struggle. Benedict Anderson would call it as the period of ‘national-print-language’. The reformation in Kerala society-if we can call it, the people who live there Malayalees-different caste groups began questioning its traditional way of everyday living by reforming their rituals, marriage systems and the standardization of Malayalam. Without this standardization of language, it was impossible for producing school text books, writing and publishing poems, short stories, novels. Printing newspapers, publishing books, bringing out pamphlets could not have been possible without having searching for self and ethnic identity of a Malayalee.

How this notion of self and ethnic identity possible among Malayalees? The constitution of self and the ethic identity had deeply involved in ‘inter-subjective’ process, in which language played a crucial role. Each caste groups reformed the language, rituals, food patterns, marriage systems and clothing etc., to the needs of building a community of their own and, at the same time, it had contributed to making of Malayalee ethic identity. Language, as we know, represent the conflicts among the Afro-American communities, and many other communities. However, this is proven wrong in the case of Malayalee ethnic identity, so they are in the world stage.

Anderson, B (1983) Imagined Communities, Verso, London.
Fought, Carmen (2006) Language Ethnicity, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.

Keywords: Kerala, Malayalee, Ethnicity, Community