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Domesticating Malayalees: Family planning, the nation and home-centred anxieties in Mid-20th century Keralam


  • J. Devika

    (Centre for Development Studies)


The paper tries to unsettle the naturalized association often assumed in the existent literature between the modern family and the small family in 20 th century Malayalee society. Instead, it attempts to trace out the shaping of certain life-options in discourse from the mid-19th century onwards that would increasingly mobilize the desire of modern Malayalees and play an important role in directing them towards the small family norm. The entire notion of parental responsibility was redefined in a crucial way in and through these processes; secondly, the ability of the state to intervene in the family was also strengthened and legitimized. These were, of course central to the willing acceptance of the Family Planning Programme in mid-20 th century Malayalee society. It is also important to inquire about the specific paths through which these life-options began to appear both reasonable and desirable to different social groups in this society, but since this points at far more intensive and prolonged research, the paper attempts only to open up some ground tentatively. Further, it considers the question why Malayalee sub-nationalist sentiment, which peaked in the 1950s, actually sanctioned a reduction in the numbers of Malayalees, and why calls for assertion of the Malayalee identity were fully compatible with the desperate call to reduce their numbers. In conclusion, the paper gestures at what is called the process of `Domestication': a process by which the major share of the energies, interests, desires etc. of individuals have been directed into their families, in which the Family Planning Programme is taken to be a major event. The political implications of this process are briefly discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • J. Devika, 2002. "Domesticating Malayalees: Family planning, the nation and home-centred anxieties in Mid-20th century Keralam," Centre for Development Studies, Trivendrum Working Papers 340, Centre for Development Studies, Trivendrum, India.
  • Handle: RePEc:ind:cdswpp:340

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    Cited by:

    1. Singh, Prerna, 2011. "We-ness and Welfare: A Longitudinal Analysis of Social Development in Kerala, India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 282-293, February.

    More about this item


    Small family; modern family; responsible parenting; state; salaried employment; householder; Developmentalism; Malayalee sub-nationalism.;

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