Social Scientist. v 23, no. 260-62 (Jan-Mar 1995) p. 109.

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Notes on the Making of Feminine Identity in Contemporary Kerala Society

Speaking of the stark discrepancy between German thought and its material basis, Marx ominously predicts: 'it will one day find itself on the level of European decadence before ever having been on the level of European emancipation* and be 'comparable to a fetish worshipper pining away with the dcsccascs of Christianity: (MECA, III, 183). In more senses than one, Marx's metaphor poignantly captures the odd curve described by the social development in Kerala. The rising wave of caste hatred, communal riots and the shocking criminalisation of everyday life have rudely shaken the self-complacent, self-congratulatory assumptions of the left regarding the 'essentially progressive character' of Kerala. Spectres of reaction which were thought to have been exercised and safely put away in the heady days of anti-colonial, anti-feudal struggle arc once again beginning to stalk the streets. And the once proud bastion of radical politics and enlightened thought has all of a sudden come to wear a slightly jaded and all too vulnerable look. Like a child prodigy who, at the approach of middle age, finds himself under pressure to pay off the overdraft of adulation that he had enjoyed at an early age, so touchingly portrayed by Adorno in Minima Moralia, Kerala society too is squarely faced with the problem of living up to the 'early promise' that it had shown. Indeed, the alarming eclipse of women's freedom and the attenuation of tReir social status in contemporary Kerala society arc grim pointers to Ais. .'

Modem social scientists are wont to urge, justifiably enough, that a society's progrcssivcncss can be judged from the treatment it metes out to women and children. From this point of vantage the track record of Kerala, in recent years is far from gladdening. Crimes against women, from eve-teasing and molestation to gang rapes and murder, arc disturbingly frequent. Instances of suicides and dowry deaths arc .multiplying. The objectffication and commodification of the female

Department of English, Calicut University Centre, Palayad, Thalasscry, Kerala Social Scientist, Vol. 23, Nos. 1-3, January-Marchl995

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