Public Faces, Private Lives: Community and Individuality in South India

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University of California Press, 1994 M12 19 - 244 pages
Individuality is often viewed as an exclusively Western value. In non-Western societies, collective identities seem to eclipse those of individuals. These generalities, however, have overlooked the importance of personal uniqueness, volition, and achievement in these cultures. As an anthropologist in Tamil Nadu, South India, Mattison Mines found private and public expressions of self in all sectors of society. Based on his twenty-five years of field research, Public Faces, Private Voices weaves together personal life stories, historical description, and theoretical analysis to define individuality in South Asia and to distinguish it from its Western counterpart.

This engaging and controversial book will be of great interest to scholars and students working in anthropology, psychology, sociology, South Asian history, urban studies, and political science.

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I'm happy to read this book, since it has the detailed history of my Grandpa Mr.K.A.Kasiviswanatha Mudaliar. I'm Proud!

Selected pages


Introduction Individuality in South India
The Nature of Civic Individuality
Institutions and Bigmen of a Madras City Community George Town Today
Making the Community George Town in Social History
A Portrait of Change
The Decline of Community and the Roles of Bigmen
Themes of Individuality in Private and Public Lives Personal Narratives
Locating Individuality within the Collective Context

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Page 20 - ... But, my dilemma, my decision, my problem wasn't just mine, it included the entire agrahara. This is the root of the difficulty, the anxiety, the double-bind of dharma. When the question of Naranappa's death-rites came up, I didn't try to solve it for myself. I depended on God, on the old Law Books. Isn't this precisely why we have created the Books? Because there's this deep relation between our decisions and the whole community. In every act we involve our forefathers, our gurus, our gods, our...
Page 18 - While tales that feature princes who go off on quests for the golden bird in the emerald tree invariably end in wedding bells, tales with women at the center of action almost never do so. The women meet their husbands and are married formally or informally in the first part of the tale, often at the very beginning, and then the real story, usually nothing but trouble, begins.
Page 203 - ... mechanisms which prise social relations free from the hold of specific locales, recombining them across wide time-space distances.
Page 7 - ... substances" underlie all systems, individuals, and objects, all of which have "the ability to mix and separate, to transform and be transformed, to establish intersubstantial relationships of compatibility and incompatibility, to be in states of equilibrium and disequilibrium, and to possess variable degrees of fluidity and combinability
Page 210 - Let me merely say that it is plain, particularly to us, that there has never existed a human being who has not been aware, not only of his body, but also at the same time of his individuality, both spiritual and physical.
Page 4 - One will thereby avoid inadvertently attributing the presence of the individual to societies in which he is not recognized, and also avoid making him a universal unit of comparison or element of reference.
Page 5 - It is immediately obvious that there are two mutually opposed configurations of this kind: one is characteristic of traditional societies and the other of modern society. In the first, as in Plato's Republic, the stress is placed on the society as a whole, as collective Man; the ideal derives from the organization of society with respect to its ends (and not with respect to individual happiness); it is above all a matter of order, of hierarchy...
Page 17 - the essential psychological theme of Hindu culture" namely, "the polarity of fusion and separation ... a dynamic counterpoint between two opposite needs, to merge into and to be differentiated from the 'Other.
Page 88 - They seem also designed to serve the publick in another capacity, and make up part of the equipage of a great man when he goes abroad ; for every man of figure in the country, I observed, had a number of these singing women run before him ; even the Governor of Fort St. George was attended by fifty of them, as well as by the country musick when he went out ; but some of our late Governors, out of their excessive modesty, have thought fit to dispence with this piece of grandeur.
Page 5 - ... each particular man in his place must contribute to the global order, and justice consists in ensuring that the proportions between social functions are adapted to the whole.

About the author (1994)

Mattison Mines is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of the The Warrior Merchants: Textiles, Trade, and Territory in South India (1984).

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