Television and the construction of Tulu identity in south India
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In India, the 1.7 million speakers of Tulu, a language mainly spoken in the South Kannara region of the South Indian state of Karnataka, have largely been linguistically subsumed by the larger number of Kannada speakers (38 million) around them. In February 2005, Namma TV (‘Our TV’), a new television channel started broadcasting local programs in Tulu in the region. The channel represents one of first instances where Tulu is used by the media in the region. This study looks at how the channel, by consciously choosing to broadcast largely in Tulu, can potentially change language attitudes in the region. From being a language that was used only in family settings at home, Tulu is now, potentially, seen as being capable of use in non-personal settings. This study looks at the impact of the channel on the language politics of the region and also at how the channel by stressing on Tulu language and culture reinvigorates and sustains the ideal of the land of Tulunadu (the land where Tulu is spoken). More specifically, this study looks at the interactions on a Tulu call-in TV show called Pattanga where callers call in with their opinions on a chosen aspect of Tulu culture and language. This study is the result of fieldwork in the Tulu-speaking South Kannara region over a period of two years from 2005 to 2007 and is based on recorded episodes from the show, interviews with audience members who watch and call in to the show, and with the moderators of the show. Through a linguistic analysis of the interactions on the TV show, I look at how the media is used by Tulu-speaking elites in the construction of a Tulu identity. I also look at how narratives on the call-in show are used by callers, not only to construct gender, caste, and social class identities, but also to de-construct and de-center those identities. Finally, based on the view that culture and society is constituted through interactions between participants in particular contexts, I examine how the interactions on the show evoke the socio-cultural worlds Tulu speakers live in and draw conclusions about the potential impact of the show on language attitudes and practices.