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Private Reinlichkeit, öffentliches Chaos: Un/reinheit und Raum im südindisch-tamilischen Kottar

Damaris Lüthi
Zeitschrift für Ethnologie
Bd. 129, H. 2 (2004), pp. 231-261
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25842954
Page Count: 31
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Private Reinlichkeit, öffentliches Chaos: Un/reinheit und Raum im südindisch-tamilischen Kottar
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Abstract

This paper examines how notions of purity and cleanliness amongst high, middle and lower castes and classes relate to the private and public environment in a Southern Indian urban neighbourhood. It is argued that waste is expelled to make various inside spaces - e.g. residences or temples - attractive, so as to invite the benevolence of the deities. According to Kottar informants, the negligence of private cleanliness may have consequences for health and wealth, not because germs attack the body, but because angered deities may punish this "sin" by inflicting disease or poverty. In contrast, polluting the outside is without such divine consequences and is thus found irrelevant. This creates the paradox of meticulously clean private spaces side by side with an appallingly dirty immediate environment. This approach, I contend, is rooted in an orthodox śāstric classification of the material world, which despises bodily waste and organises the universe into graded substances ranging from very purifying matter — if from divine origin —, to extremely defiling material produced in connection with transitional stages between life and death. From this perspective, cleanliness and "purity" are identical. The insignificance of outsides relates to further orthodox dichotomizing concepts, which denote a domesticated inside in contrast with an inhospitable outside, which is considered beyond control.

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