Interrogating the cultural roots of contemporary Malayali middle classes, especially the upper caste Nambudiri community, The Fall of Gods is based on a decade-long ethnography and historic sociological analyses of the interconnections between colonial history, family memories, and class mobility in twentieth-century south India. It traces the transformation of normative structures of kinship networks as the community moves from colonial to neo-liberal modernity across generations. The author demonstrates how past family experiences of class and geographical mobility (or immobility) are retrieved and reshaped in the present as alternative ways of conceiving kinship, transforming the idea of collective suffering and sacrifice, and strengthening the felt necessity of territorial, caste, and religious mingling.
Rich in anthropological detail and incisive analyses, the book makes original contributions to the understanding of connection between gendered family relations and class mobility, and foregrounds the complex linkages between political history, memory, and the 'private' domain of kinship relations in the making of India's middle classes.
ESTER GALLO IS LECTURER IN anthropology at the Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Trento, Italy, and Research Fellow at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS), European University Institute, Florence, Italy. She holds a BA in philosophy and social sciences and a PhD in social anthropology from the University of Siena, and has been Marie Curie Doctoral Fellow at the Centre for Migration Studies, University of Sussex. She has lectured in sociology, anthropology, migration studies and South Asian studies at the Universities of Sussex, Edinburgh, and Perugia. Her research interests cut across kinship, memory, migration, religion, gender, and class, with specific reference to Italy/ Mediterranean and India/South Asia. She has published in English, Italian, and -French in international journals (Global Networks, Sociology, Critique of Anthropology, Indian Journal of Gender Studies, Migration Letters, Emotions, Space and Society, and Migrations Societe Revieu) and has edited a book titled Migration and Religion in Europe: Comparative Perspectives on South Asian Experiences (Ashgate, 2014). Along with Francesca Scrinzi she has co-authored a book titled Migrant Men, Masculinities and Reproductive Labour: Men of the Home (Palgrave MacMillan - Migration, Citizenship, and Diaspora Series, 2016).
Salina: They are coming to teach us good manners.
But they won't succeed, because we think we are gods.
Tancredi: For things to remain the same,
Everything must change.
-The Leopard, 1958
THE OPENING QUOTATION MOMENTARILY STEALS us away from the lands and times of Indian history towards the crises of Sicilian society in the 1860s, as they are portrayed in the masterpiece of Tomasi di Lampedusa, The Leopard. The novel captures a critical moment in the making of modern Italy, the approaching end of the feudal privileges of an old-fashioned and declining aristocracy and the emergence of a class of neo-aristocratic youths. The latter, driven by nationalist sentiments, fight to free Sicily from the Bourbon kingdom in order to annex the southern parts of the peninsula to a new unitary state under the House of Savoy. From the enchanted and secluded country palace of Donnafugata, the main character, the old Prince of Salina, witnesses with acute awareness the ruin of his own ruling class 'with-out ever making, still less wanting to make, any move toward saving it'.1 In one of the most engaging passages, Salina receives the visit of Chevalley, a Piedmontese official who invites him to accept a role in the Senate. In refusing, Salina kindly equates the intrusive modern-ism of his guest to the perpetual-and unsuccessful-attempts of earlier French, Spanish, or Arabic conquerors to 'canalize Sicily into the flow of universal history'. As a people that have always sat on the throne of a godly perfection, Sicilians remain plunged in a past of grandeur to the point of preferring a 'grand funeral' rather than having to come to terms with historical changes.
By contrast, Salina's young nephew Tancredi is endowed with the necessary appeal and boldness to successfully embrace the nationalist cause and, we are left to imagine, to impose himself as a politically and socially influential citizen of the future Italian state. Unlike many conservative aristocrats-who shun the irreverence of Tancredi in the name of righteous traditions-Salina silently admires his nephew's intelligence and entrepreneurial character, while nevertheless pre-serving some distance from Tancredi's provocations. Tancredi's (apparent) break with traditions appears in his love for Angelica, the seductive daughter of a rich member of the enterprising middle class, and in the unspoken choice to refuse the 'expected' marriage with Concetta, his pious and submissive cousin. Predictably, it is Angelica's father who takes up the place in the senate refused by the aristocratic Salina. Salina and Tancredi confront each other throughout the novel in a way that unexpectedly makes the latter appear more aristocratic and conservative than his polished uncle. Rather than accepting the fading of an era, Tancredi subscribes to the idea that, in order to remain powerful, the godly rulers of the past should transform the ideological and material premises of their privileges.
The Leopard (1958) captures an epochal moment in Italian history: it portrays a watershed between the past traditional feudal order and the birth of a modern society. It unravels a critical event of Italian nation making: a moment in which, as Veena Das (1995: 6) articulates in relation to the context of India, 'new models of actions came into being which redefined traditional categories of thoughts' within a novel polity. A moment in which history created spaces for the emer-gence of new social relations also in 'the private' sphere of domestic life and of kinship, through the disruption of previous patterns of relatedness and the emergence of new ways of imagining, making, and living kinship (see Carsten 2007: 4-6).
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend