I am a University of Chicago student who has taken the summer to study my family’s history. Fueled by a passion for social history and the University of Chicago’s Seidel grant, I have come to Chennai, India, to understand my family’s history in the 20th century.
What do I mean by family history? As a history student, I have always been interested in social history. A central question in social history, including the study of families, is how long-term social and political developments change our everyday lives. These long-term developments include urbanization, industrialization, the rise of the professions, and the spread of higher education, especially for women. Our homes and our families and our relationships with our loved ones are deeply affected by these developments (and, of course, our family lives and personal relationships in turn impact on society and politics, but that is a different project). The question is, what is the relationship between our experiences as members of a family and these larger social developments? My purpose in taking on this project is to understand what changes my family underwent—in terms of structure, living arrangements, and individuals' identities—in the 20th century, and how the results of those changes were perceived by the members of my family.
I arrived in Chennai on July 4th to begin collecting my sources, and I will be back in Chicago in September, when I will synthesize my findings. This blog will contain regular updates and reflections as I carry out my project.