Contemporary Tamil Culture



Start Date: Feb, 1996
Status: Ongoing

Project Details

Department Social Sciences
Funding Agency(ies)

French Institute of Pondicherry

Email kannan.m AT ifpindia DOT org

Project Description


Tamil, one of the classical languages in India, is also an ever-evolving contemporary language practiced in more than three continents.

The IFP, situated in the heart of Tamil Nadu, has consistently developed over the last five years a small research unit on Contemporary Tamil studies with focus on the transition to modernity and internal evolution of Tamil society as reflected by original Tamil literary (or otherwise) sources. Our contribution in the field of contemporary cultural history of Tamil from late 19th to the 21st century has been:

  • A unique and constantly updated collection of original documents, (managed by the IFP library)
  • A cluster of local and international research projects on contemporary Tamil, such as History of Vernacular Mathematical Practices in India, creating an open forum for concerned scholars
  • A set of publications as concrete output.

Materials and Methods
The library is responsible for research documentation management. This is an ongoing activity and is aimed at setting up a specialized documentary centre for contemporary Tamil.

The collection of data, based on sources not available in any other libraries, is highly selective:

  • Books and periodicals with limited circulation,
  • Publications from the usual distribution networks, (private, mofussil areas…)
  • International publications (importance of the diaspora in Europe, America, Australia…),
  • Major, out of print volumes, no longer available in most libraries
  • original manuscripts

So far, more than 3000 books and 1500 journals have been made available to the public. Another batch of more than 2000 books and 1000 journals are being catalogued. For example, rare complete collections of Manikkoti (1933-1939) and Eluttu (1959-1971) are preserved here. Publications on CDROM are being considered.


Project leader

  • Kannan M., IFP

Post Doctorates

- Classical Tamil Literature

  • Senthil Narayanan A. (University of Madras & Thiyarajar College, Madurai): Lexicography and Tamil grammatical commentaries (2015)
  • Prakash V. (University of Madras): Comprehensive index to Purananuru (2015)

- Contemporary Tamil Culture and politics

  • Alexandra de Heering: Situation of Dalits in the Kodaikanal hills (2014) (University of Namur, Belgium)


- 19th and early 20th century religious and secular literature

  • Kalaivanan G. (University of Madras): Publications of Saiva mutts and Dravidian  organizations in the early 20th Century (2014)

- Contemporary Tamil Literature

  • Prabhavathi S. (Pondicherry University): History of Tamil comics (2014)

- Contemporary Tamil Culture and politics

  • Michael Collins (University of Pennsylvania): History of Liberation Panthers movement    (VCK) (2016)

- South Indian Buddhism

  • Sean Kerr: Buddhism from the South Indian Pali sources (2016) (University of California, Berkeley)

- Archaeology

  • Balamurugan R. (Pondicherry University): (2015)