Tamil Studies: A Discipline in Motion

Description of activities, leadership, contact information

Description of Activity

This working group links a growing community of scholars and students from the University of Toronto and the broader GTA area to critically inquire into the histories and the present manifestations of Tamil studies, both as an international scholarly discipline and one rooted locally in Toronto. Tamil is a language, but it is also a social and political identity that has shifted across time and place. Therefore, its study spans the humanities and the social and political sciences, with varied trajectories in South and Southeast Asia, Europe, North America, and the diaspora. The specific institutions, motivations, and intellectual histories that have fostered Tamil studies over the years deserve further reflection. As such, we assemble a diverse group of scholars from the humanities and social sciences, who research ancient as well as modern Tamil sources and phenomena from a number of disciplines, methods, and media, in order to understand more fully the modes by which Tamil has been understood across time and place. While we look forward to returning to physically convening, it has become clear that a flexible, multi-media manner of conducting meetings will expand our accessibility to our working group members.

In the coming year, we will discuss Transregional Tamiḻ in Conversation. By this, we intend to consider our subfield in its manifold relations; Tamiḻ in the context of South India and Sri Lanka, Tamiḻ in the context of the Indian Ocean studies, and Tamiḻ Diaspora. Recognizing that Tamiḻ studies is the most dominant of linguistically-defined subfields of South India, we seek to expand by inviting University of Toronto graduate students of multiple departments whose work involves languages and regions of South India, Sri Lanka, and those whose work relates by the Indian Ocean connection. Our working group integrates faculty and graduate students from all three campuses and builds collaborative links with the Asian Institute and the Centre for South Asian Studies at the Munk School, the collaborative graduate program in Book History and Print Culture, and the Tamil Worlds Initiative at UTSC. We also hope to encourage collaboration amongst the community of scholars engaged in Tamil studies in the broader GTA area.



  • Mark Balmforth, postdoctoral researcher, UTSC Historical & Cultural Studies
  • Stephanie Duclos-King, FAS Study of Religion
  • Jesse Pruitt, Ph.D. cand., Study of Religion
  • Bhavani Raman, UTSC Historical & Cultural Studies
  • Srilata Raman, FAS Study of Religion
  • Kristina Rogahn, Ph.D. student, Study of Religion


Faculty, University of Toronto

  • Francis Cody, UTM Anthropology
  • Christoph Emmrich, UTM Historical Studies and FAS Study of Religion
  • Malavika Kasturi, UTM Historical Studies

Faculty outside University of Toronto

  • Vaisugi Kailasam, Southeast Asian Studies, University of California-Berkeley
  • Shobhana Xavier, School of Religion, Queen’s University

Librarian, University of Toronto

  • Natkeeran Kedchumykanthan, UTSC Library Digital Scholarship Unit

Graduate Students, University of Toronto

  • Henria Aton, Faculty of Information
  • Shibi Laxman, History
  • Janani Mandayam, Study of Religion
  • Ganga Rudraiah, Cinema Studies
  • Siddharth Sridhar, History
  • Mirela Stosic, Study of Religion