The Politics of Heritage from Madras to Chennai

The Politics of Heritage from Madras to Chennai

Mary E. Hancock
Distribution: World
ISBN: 978-0-253-00265-5
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In this anthropological history, Mary E. Hancock examines the politics of public memory in the southern Indian city of Chennai. Once a colonial port, Chennai is now poised to become a center for India's "new economy" of information technology, export processing, and back-office services. State and local governments promote tourism and a heritage-conscious cityscape to make Chennai a recognizable "brand" among investment and travel destinations. Using a range of textual, visual, architectural, and ethnographic sources, Hancock grapples with the question of how people in Chennai remember and represent their past, considering the political and economic contexts and implications of those memory practices. Working from specific sites, including a historic district created around an ancient Hindu temple, a living history museum, neo-traditional and vernacular architecture, and political memorials, Hancock examines the spatialization of memory under the conditions of neoliberalism.

Author Bio

Mary E. Hancock is Professor of Anthropology and History at the University of California, Santa Barbara.


"[Hancock] has a keen ethnographic eye and the book reflects many years of immersion in, and thinking about, Chennai/Tamil Nadu. This is an important contribution to anthropology, South Asian studies, and the interdisciplinary field of urban studies." —Smriti Srinivas, University of California, Davis

". . . a major contribution to an underexamined field. . . . [T]his book is . . . a formidable effort at comprehending the industries of cultural heritage in India as they confront and negotiate our contemporary world." —Saloni Mathur, University of California, Los Angeles,
H-Asia , May 2009

"Hancock reintroduced me to the city and to a way of thinking about the secular, the state, and the religious that made me see my experiences of Chennai anew. The book will remain a serious contribution to the discussion of memory, of the complex contours of the secular and the religious, of the construction of spaces, and of the wobbly world of history." —
Contemporary South Asia , November 2012

"[This] book makes a significant contribution to memory studies not only because it offers a theoretically informed and empirically rich analysis, but also because it reflects a deep and insightful engagement with the popular culture of Chennai." —
South Asia Research

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Table of Contents

Note on Transliteration and Pseudonyms
List of Abbreviations

1. Making the Past in a Global Present: Chennai's New Heritage

Part 1. The Formal City and Its Pasts
2. Governing the Past: Chennai's Histories
3. Memory, Mourning, and Politics
4. Modernity Remembered: Temples, Publicity, and Heritage

Part 2. Restructured Memories
5. Consuming the Past: Tourism's Cultural Economies
6. Recollecting the Rural in Suburban Chennai
7. The Village as Vernacular Cosmopolis
8. Conclusion: "How Many Museums Can One Have?"