Dr. Jillet Sarah Sam, who has recently completed her doctorate in Sociology from the University of Maryland, USA delivered a talk on “Spatial Imaginaries on Cyber Thiyyars of Malabar” at the School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad (UoH) on 25th July 2014.
Speaking to an audience of students, faculty and staff, Dr. Jillet Sarah Sam shared her work on two groups Thiyyars and Ezhavas, one belonging to Malabar, the north region of Kerala and the other belonging to South Kerala respectively. She spoke about Spatial Imaginaries and defined it as mental maps representing a space to which people relate and with which they get an identity. She also said people often say that they belong to a particular region to seek identity but mentioned that space and place are not synonyms.
Explaining the methodology used in studying these two groups of Kerala, Dr. Sam said she conducted an ethnography of a digital group Cyber Thiyyars of Malabar (CTM) which was hosted by a popular social networking site Meerkat.com and also shared the methods used for understanding Spatial Imaginaries like Participant observation on CTM, in-depth personal interviews, field work in Malabar etc. Talking about CTM she said it is a digital group meant to study people from the Thiyyar caste. They are an OBC caste, located in Malabar of North Kerala. CTM was formed in January 2012 and rapidly expanded group from 500 to 5000 members during the two year study period, members are located in India and outside.
Dr. Jillet stated that this study has demonstrated that place can form a powerful factor in contemporary mobilization of castes and by focusing on a place she found out that members of CTM experience place from within and outside India and identities continue to be shaped by caste inequalities. It is also significant that unlike in the past, contemporary caste based interest groups are now engaged in explicit translational mobilization through the use of the new media.
Dr. Jillet Sarah Sam is an alumnus of the Department of Sociology; University of Hyderabad. Her Ph.D. is from the University of Maryland, USA under the supervision of Prof. George Ritzer. Her areas of interest include Globalization, New Media and Society, Social Geography, Consumption, Social Inequality, Sociological Theory, Postcolonial Theory, Cultural Studies and South Asia Studies.