Francis Cody

Director, Dr. David Chu Program in Contemporary Asian Studies (CAS)
Director, Centre for South Asian Studies (CSAS)
Associate Professor, Asian Institute/Centre for South Asian Studies
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, UTM
Room 269S

Trinity College
1 Devonshire Place 
Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3K7 Canada

Francis Cody - Photo by Jamie Napier

Current affiliations

  • Director, Dr. David Chu Program in Contemporary Asian Studies (CAS)
  • Director, Centre for South Asian Studies (CSAS)

Areas of interest

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



Francis Cody is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Asian Institute at the University of Toronto, where he is the Director of the Dr. David Chu Program in Contemporary Asian Studies and the Centre for South Asian Studies. He has been teaching at U of T since 2008. His research focuses on language, politics, and media in southern India. He first brought these interests to bear on a study of citizenship, literacy, and social movement politics in Tamil Nadu. Based on two years of fieldwork in the rural district of Pudukkottai, this work was published as a book called The Light of Knowledge: Literacy Activism and the Politics of Writing in South India (Cornell 2013), winner of the 2014 Edward Sapir Book Prize awarded by the Society for Linguistic Anthropology.  Dr. Cody’s more recent research traces the emergence of populist democracy and transformations of political publicity through Tamil and English news media. This work, funded by a five-year SSHRC-Insight Research Grant, explores questions of law, technology, and violence in claims to representing popular sovereignty.  Taken as a whole, his work contributes to the transdisciplinary project of elaborating critical social theories of mass mediation and politics in the postcolonial world.

Select publications

  • In Press. Co-Edited with E. Annamalai, Malarvizhi Jayanth, and Constantine V. Nakassis. Protestant Textuality and the Tamil Modern: Political Oratory and the Social Imaginary in South Asia. By Bernard Bate (posthumous). Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • The Light of Knowledge: Literacy Activism and the Politics of Writing in South India. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press (Indian edition by Orient Blackswan) 
  • Wave theory: Cash, crowds, and caste in Indian elections. American Ethnologist 47: 402-416.
  • Metamorphoses of Popular Sovereignty: Cinema, Short Circuits, and Digitalization in Tamil India. Anthropological Quarterly 93(2): 57-88.
  • Millennial Turbulence: The Networking of Tamil Media Politics. Television & New Media, 21(4): 392 – 406.
  • How is Multilingual Freelance Journalism Changing the Media Landscape in India? Economic and Political Weekly, 53(19). (“Engage” online publication)
  • The Obligation to Act: Gender and Reciprocity in Political Mobilization. Hau: The Journal of Ethnographic Theory. special section: Language and Political Economy Revisited, edited by Andy Graan. 6(3): 179-199.
  • Populist Publics: Print Capitalism and Crowd Violence Beyond Liberal Frameworks. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. special issue: Media/Utopia, edited by Arvind Rajagopal. 35(1): 50-65.  Reprinted in In Media and Utopia: History, Imagination, Technology, Critical Interventions in Theory and Praxis Series. Arvind Rajagopal and Anupama Rao. eds. New Delhi: Routledge.
  • Publics and Politics. Annual Review of Anthropology, 40:37-52.
  • Vaacippin Inavaraiviyal: Dinathanthi – Dinamalar Adippadaiyil Amaiyum Uraiyaadal. (translated by N. Manoharan) Maatruveli. 7:41-70.
  • 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.
  • 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: Toronto South Asia Research. (peer reviewed)
  • Linguistic Anthropology at the End of the Naughts: A Review of 2009. American Anthropologist 112(2): 200-207.

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

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

Awards & recognition

  • Winner of Edward Sapir Book Prize, Society for Linguistic Anthropology