Honour Matters

Social Group-Based Narratives as Sources for the Study of Situated Honour Practices and Their Sets of Emotions in Early Modern Tamil-Speaking South India

  • Barbara Schuler (Autor/in)

Identifier (Artikel)


What do we know about honour-based emotional practices of the various social groups in early modern Tamil-speaking south India? And which emotions were
involved in honour practice? This case study applies a well-known approach in emotion history studies to this new terrain, a terrain that is largely uncharted and deserves to be explored. By examining two honour-sensitive social groups and their respective key narratives—on one hand, a lower status group, on the other, an elite and privileged group—it will be shown what kinds of practices were highlighted or evoked in conflict settings, and how honour-bound emotional practices came to the fore. Against the backdrop of a pre-modern Tamil culture, where practices were shaped by traditional normative social attributions and demarcated group boundaries, this study offers ample details of the fluid boundaries in the new literary genres of the time, where gender-specific emotions compete strongly with the clear boundaries for emotions in normative orders. The study will further show that an investigation of pre-modern Tamil emotion treatises, lexicons/glossaries (nikaṇṭu), moral canons, and proverbs counter the Western tendency of considering honour an emotion. Examining community-specific situated honour practices and the sets of emotions surrounding them not only gives us insight into the self-understanding, emotional life and needs of these groups. It also provides insight into questions pertaining to new political facts, internal literary dynamics, and social expectations. These insights are also relevant to questions about honour concepts and practices in India today.