Among her many books, ‘Emergence of a Slave Caste: Pulayas of Kerala’, is considered a pioneering contribution to the study of caste slavery in the state.

A collage of K Saradamoni in the first picture she wears a red t shirt and cap bearing the Communist logo in the second she is wearing a Kerala sari and sitting sideways
news Obituary Wednesday, May 26, 2021 - 20:26

K Saradamoni, respected social scientist, economist, writer and an inspiration to generations of feminists in Kerala, passed away on May 26 at her house in Kowdiar, Thiruvananthapuram. She's made remarkable contributions to the study of caste, gender, family and labour in Kerala, the Kerala Council for Historical Research wrote in the obituary for her. She was 93 years old, and was active as long as health allowed her. Among her many books, Emergence of a Slave Caste: Pulayas of Kerala, is considered a pioneering contribution to the study of caste slavery in the state. She also wrote Matriliny Transformed: Family, Law and Ideology in Twentieth Century Travancore, Finding the Household: Conceptual and Methodological Issues and many scholarly articles.

Many moving tributes were written about Saradamoni, whom some fondly called Amma. She was a towering name in the field of women's studies in India, wrote R Ramakumar, TISS professor and economist. "She belonged to that generation of scholars in women's studies who consistently tried to weave in class, caste and gender into one analytical thread," he wrote. Not just women’s studies, but she was also one of the first to comprehensively study about the slavery that the Dalits of Kerala were subjected to for centuries, wrote Asianet News Editor MG Radhakrishnan.

Saradamoni had worked as an economist at the Planning Division of the Indian Statistical Institute in Delhi for over 30 years, since 1961. Before that, in newly independent India, she made the move from her home in Kollam to Thiruvananthapuram for her studies: a topic on which she has written touchingly about in The Hindu. "Her work on manufacturing employment in the 1960s, agrestic slavery in Kerala in the 1970s, women's work in agriculture in the 1980s, and the history of matriliny in Kerala in the 1990s and 2000s were absolutely remarkable works. What was notable in her works was her commitment to field work as a method," Ramakumar wrote.


Saradamoni takes part in Not-in-my-name protest in 2017

Revenue Minister K Rajan wrote a tribute to Saradamoni, calling her one of the important figures among the early feminists of the state. Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament V Sivadasan, in his tribute, said that she stood with the workers and the oppressed people. Each of her studies needs an elaborate reading and discussion, he said.

Feminist academic J Devika wrote a personal post about her. "When I think in hindsight of her, how much it was like the way it was between me and my mother. Love, fight, make up, feel let down, make up again, all the time feeling a shining ray of light passing through us, connecting us... You live through all of us Ma'am."

Writer CS Chandrika posted that Saradamoni's life was a big world of knowledge, writing and organisation. She was a historian who made many great contributions, Chandrika wrote.

PS Sreekala, director of the Kerala State Literacy Mission, wrote that Saradamoni was noted for her simplicity, determination, unshakeable and firm stands.

Academic and social commentator TT Sreekumar recalled an incident from 30 years ago, when during a CDS panel discussion, Saradamoni stood up from the audience and asked: "Why is this an all-male panel? Why haven’t you included any women scholars?" Hers was one of the pioneering voices of Kerala's feminist and development scholarship, Sreekumar wrote.

Saradamoni leaves behind her daughters G Asha and G Arunima (who is the present director of KCHR). Her husband, the late N Gopinathan Nair, also known as Janayugam Gopi, was the founder of Janayugam.

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