Francis Cody

Associate Professor, Asian Institute/Centre for South Asian Studies and Department of Anthropology, UTM






Room 269S, 1 Devonshire Place


Dr. Cody’s research focuses on written language and the social dynamics of collective political action in southern India.  In his first project, he brought these interests to bear on a study of literacy activism, citizenship, and social movement politics in rural Tamilnadu.  His second project is centered on the daily newspaper market, and it traces the emergence of populist politics through print-mediated publicity in Tamil cities and small towns.  Both of these projects are concerned with developing a theoretical approach that might grasp modes of collective agency which escape our standard vocabularies of community, civil society, and governmentality. He has been working on Tamilnadu in southern India for over a decade. Taken as a whole, his work contributes to the transdisciplinary project of elaborating a critical social theory of communication in the postcolonial world.

Fields: Sociocultural and Linguistic Anthropology, Critical Social Theory, Activism, Media Studies, Postcolonial State Formation, Public Sphere, Politics, Tamilnadu, India

Selected Publications


2013. The Light of Knowledge: Literacy Activism and the Politics of Writing in South India. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Articles and Chapters

2011. Publics and Politics. Annual Review of Anthropology, 40:37-52.

2011. Vaacippin Inavaraiviyal: Dinathanthi – Dinamalar Adippadaiyil Amaiyum Uraiyaadal. (Tamil version of “Daily Wires and Daily Blossoms” translated by N. Manoharan) Maatruveli. 7:41-70.

2011. Echoes of the Teashop in a Tamil Newspaper. Language and Communication, special issue: Mediatized Processes in Contemporary Societies, edited by Asif Agha. 31(3):243-254.

2011. Arivoli’s Humanism: Literacy Activism and the Senses of Enlightenment. World without Walls: Being Human, Being Tamil, C. Kanaganayakam, R. Cheran, S. Duraiyappah, D. Singh, eds. Toronto: TSAR. (peer reviewed)

2010. Linguistic Anthropology at the End of the Naughts: A Review of 2009. American Anthropologist 112(2): 200-207.

2009. Daily Wires and Daily Blossoms: Cultivating Regimes of Circulation in Tamil India’s Newspaper Revolution. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 19(2): 286- 309.

2009. Inscribing Subjects to Citizenship: Petitions, Literacy Activism, and the Performativity of Signature in rural Tamil India. Cultural Anthropology 24(3): 347-380.

Book Reviews

2012. Review of Tamil Oratory and the Dravidian Aesthetic: Democratic Practice in South India, by Bernard Bate, Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 22(1):126-127.

2008. Review of Little India: Diaspora, Time and Ethnolinguistic Belonging in Hindu Mauritius, by Patrick Eisenlohr, Language in Society, 37(5): 741-744.

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