Research Programs: Fellowships for University Teachers

Period of Performance

8/1/2013 - 7/31/2014

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

The Brahmin Double: Religion, Caste, Language, and Performance in Maharashtra, India, 1200-2000 CE

FAIN: FA-56432-12

Christian Lee Novetzke
University of Washington (Seattle, WA 98195-1016)

This project examines religious and other performance materials from the thirteenth century to the present in Marathi and the modern Indian state of Maharashtra. I explore how Brahmin performers and composers appear to be agents in the creation of anti-caste and in particular anti-Brahmin sentiment in public contexts. I situate this Brahminical anti-caste and anti-Brahmin discourse within a largely performative public sphere where Brahmins balanced their role as knowledge specialists in heterogeneous social, religious, and cultural contexts where they were a significant minority. Here, Brahmin advocates of anti-Brahmin and anti-caste sentiment offered a ‘double’, a discursively constructed ‘Brahmin’, thus deflecting or diffusing criticism and enabling the Brahmin performer or composer to maintain a position of importance in the world of public performance and, later, public politics.

Associated Products

The Quotidian Revolution: Vernacularization, Religion, and the Premodern Public Sphere in India (Book)
Title: The Quotidian Revolution: Vernacularization, Religion, and the Premodern Public Sphere in India
Author: Christian Lee Novetzke
Abstract: In thirteenth-century Maharashtra, a new vernacular literature emerged to challenge the hegemony of Sanskrit, a language largely restricted to men of high caste. In a vivid and accessible idiom, this new Marathi literature inaugurated a public debate over the ethics of social difference grounded in the idiom of everyday life. The arguments of vernacular intellectuals pushed the question of social inclusion into ever-wider social realms, spearheading the development of a nascent premodern public sphere that valorized the quotidian world in sociopolitical terms. The Quotidian Revolution examines this pivotal moment of vernacularization in Indian literature, religion, and public life by investigating courtly donative Marathi inscriptions alongside the first extant texts of Marathi literature: the Lilacaritra (1278) and the Jñanesvari (1290). Novetzke revisits the influence of Chakradhar (c. 1194), the founder of the Mahanubhav religion, and Jnandev (c. 1271), who became a major figure of the Varkari religion, to observe how these avant-garde and worldly elites pursued a radical intervention into the social questions and ethics of the age. Drawing on political anthropology and contemporary theories of social justice, religion, and the public sphere, The Quotidian Revolution explores the specific circumstances of this new discourse oriented around everyday life and its lasting legacy: widening the space of public debate in a way that presages key aspects of Indian modernity and democracy.
Year: 2016
Primary URL:
Access Model: Hardcover, Paperback, Ebook
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 9780231175807
Copy sent to NEH?: No