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Title: Telugu ethnic identity in Mauritius
Author: Nirsimloo-Anenden, Ananda Devi
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 1982
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The thesis deals with different aspects of ethnicity in the multi-racial society of Mauritius. It considers the significance of ethnic identity for the sub-groups of the Indian community, both in a village situation and at the global social level in the country. Further, it attempts to elucidate the ways in which ethnic identity can he used as a resource, which each group can consciously manipulate in order to obtain specific privileges in the wider social context. Part One of the thesis deals with the village situation. Two adjacent villages are compared and the different configurations of ethnicity in each are identified and related to specific economic and social conditions in the villages as well as to the make-up of the groups themselves. It is suggested that there is a correlation between the bounded, restrictive context of the 'plantation-village' - which one of the village closely approximates - and a less overt configuration of ethnic differentiation; whereas in the other village studied, a more open-ended social and economic situation, creating avenues of social mobility and economic entrepreneurship, allows overt ethnic rivalries and separation to emerge. It is not however solely a matter of context, but also one of content that allows ethnic identity to assume different guises in the society. Identity seems to spring from a deeply imbedded notion of substance, akin to the idea of 'genus' and blood, which is an immutable part of the individual's social and psychological personality. Part Two of the thesis focuses on one group of Mauritian society, the Telugu-speaking group, which is defined as a regional and linguistic sub-group of the Indian community, but which adheres to a more distinctly ethnic selfdefinition. In a substantial sense, the group's identity hinges on institutional features of kinship and marriage. In fact, kinship as a real order of relation and as a symbolical link is the underlying fabric that holds the group together and gives it a sense of its own identity. In order to validate its identity vis-a-vis other, more cogently organised groups, however, it has to use other parameters of identity. This is done by emphasising its distinctiveness in terms of religion, language and cultural norms, which represent overt, surface boundaries demarcating the group's specificity. This is seen in terms of a structuralisation of ethnicity, or ethnicisation, whereby the group's substantial identity is translated into a consciously manipulative one. In this way, ethnicity as an order of being becomes transformed into ethnicity as a resource in the plural society.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral