'INSOLENT' MAKERS OF THE WORLD: IDENTITY FORMATION PRACTICES OF SOUTH INDIAN ARTISANS
The present paper sets out to explore the historically mutable and disputable grounds of social identity of the South Indian artisans and artists, or Visvakarmas, by analyzing the practices of caste mobility and assumption of higher status as traced in classical sources, as well as judicial cases from colonial Madras. The primary intention herein is to investigate the historical shifts in identity-formation of the Visvakarmas' which provide an interpretational framework for contemporary strategies of identity construction. It is argued that dominant treatment of Indian artists, as being of very low social rank, is disapproved by a set of long-lasting rhetoric and pragmatic practices dated back to medieval period that pertain to legitimized uprise of social status of the Visvakarmas, and even rivaling the ritual functions of the Brahmans.
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