|Ms. Victoria Gross is a Ph.D. candidate in sociocultural anthropology at Columbia University, New York. She completed her B.A. in sociology and religion in 2006, and her M.A. in religious studies in 2008, both at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. For her M.A. thesis, she conducted an ethnographic and textually based project on religious rituals and transnational identity among Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Montreal. She has published a translation and commentary on a song dedicated to the rural Tamil goddess Mariyamman in ARC, McGill University’s journal of religious studies. She now works with the Devendra Kula Velallar community, an upwardly mobile Dalit community, formerly known as the Pallars, in Tamil Nadu. More broadly, her current research interests range from Dalit identities, to the emotional and affective underpinnings of political movements, to the intersections of gender and caste in South Asia.
Disavowing their Dalit identity and the economic benefits that follow it, the Devendra Kula Velallar (DKV) community is engaged in a political movement, including history writing and ongoing public performance aimed at raising their status. Through ethnographic, textual and multimedia study, Ms. Gross’ Fulbright research project, “Articulating Distinction, Authoring the Past; Political Statements among the Devendra Kula Velallars of Tamil Nadu,” examines the effectiveness of the DKVs’ movement. Do members of other castes accept the DKVs’ strong assertions of royal lineage? This investigation will trace DKV mobilization both at the level of leadership and among DKVs not directly involved in the movement. Ultimately, this project will yield important insights about Dalit identity, political mobilization and social mobility in South India.