Cage of Freedom

Tamil Identity and the Ethnic Fetish in Malaysia
Andrew C. Willford
An ethnographic look at rituals across class and status among Malyasian Tamils

Description

"An ethnographically rich and theoretically sophisticated book, offering a complex analysis of the forces underlying religious revival among the Tamil and more broadly 'Indian' population of Malaysia. Wilford focuses on unstudied problem: the peculiar predicament faced by diasporic Indians in Southeast Asia. This imaginative study stands to make a substantial contribution to thinking across a range of scholarly fields."
—Danilyn Rutherford, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago

"Cage of Freedom is an exceptionally good, uncommonly rich ethnography of the Tamil community in Malaysia, among the best ever ethnographies of this area ever written, based in thorough field research and clearly informed by an attentive ear and an astute observational consciousness. We learn much about the lives and experiences, the hopes and fantasies of individual Tamils—from both lower and middle class locations—but this careful presentation of Tamil perspectives never degenerates into the naïve valorization of indigenous authenticity; hence, it never becomes an excuse for turning away from the social and historical complexities of the situation in Malaysia. This book is an exemplary act of anthropological integrity; its insistence on reading, on interrogating the conclusions and perceptions that local people have about themselves is all too rare in anthropology today. Willford may perhaps teach students, once again, that the project of anthropology is a critical one, a relentlessly questioning one."
—Rosalind Morris, Professor of Anthropology and Associate Director for the Center for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University

Andrew Willford is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Asian Studies at Cornell University.

Praise / Awards

  • "An ethnographically rich and theoretically sophisticated book, offering a complex analysis of the forces underlying religious revival among the Tamil and more broadly 'Indian' population of Malaysia. Willford focuses on unstudied problem: the peculiar predicament faced by diasporic Indians in Southeast Asia. This imaginative study stands to make a substantial contribution to thinking across a range of scholarly fields."
    —Danilyn Rutherford, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago
  • "Cage of Freedom is an exceptionally good, uncommonly rich ethnography of the Tamil community in Malaysia, among the best ever ethnographies of this area ever written, based in thorough field research and clearly informed by an attentive ear and an astute observational consciousness. We learn much about the lives and experiences, the hopes and fantasies of individual Tamils—from both lower and middle class locations—but this careful presentation of Tamil perspectives never degenerates into the naïve valorization of indigenous authenticity; hence, it never becomes an excuse for turning away from the social and historical complexities of the situation in Malaysia. This book is an exemplary act of anthropological integrity; its insistence on reading, on interrogating the conclusions and perceptions that local people have about themselves is all too rare in anthropology today. Willford may perhaps teach students, once again, that the project of anthropology is a critical one, a relentlessly questioning one."
    —Rosalind Morris, Professor of Anthropology and Associate Director for the Center for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University
  • "Andrew Willford's Cage of Freedom gives us a provocative look at the compulsive and eruptive dimensions of ethno-religious and ethno-nationalist identification in the Tamil enclaves of contemporary Malaysia. Drawing from psychoanalytic and phenomenological approaches, Willford brings us face to face with 'the nation’s spirit' and 'the ethnic uncanny,' the disturbing twin apparitions that cloak the foundational emptiness of identity. This book reminds us that ethnonationalist identity and ideology have a haunting psychological force."
    —Kenneth M. George, Editor, Journal of Asian Studies, and Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Look Inside

Copyright © 2006, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 360pp.
  • 28 B&W Photographs.
See Sales Restrictions

Sales Restrictions

Our edition is unavailable in Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Province Of China, Thailand, Timor, Viet Nam

Close

  • Paper
  • 2006
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06956-9

Add to Cart
  • $31.95 U.S.

nothing
nothing
nothing