From Fine a Balance, to Refine: Dalit ‘self’, Theory and Literature
The development of the Dalit identity over the last few decades has been shaped by the revolutionary movements – political and literary. Whatever the term used, being Dalit is a real experience and everyday struggle for the masses living under the curse of the caste system. Over the years, the term Dalit has come to signify the masses that have been exploited and oppressed by the dominant social classes in India.
Dalit theory has been widely misrepresented in Indian academia because of two primary reasons: Firstly, the production of Dalit theory in Indian social sciences has so far been controlled by the elite Brahmins, the legitimate subject who has the right to produce knowledge as per the Dharmashastras and Varnashram. Secondly, the alienation of Savarnas from the ‘lived’ experience of those who are at the bottom rungs of caste system and face violence. This kind of scholarship requires critical introspection, since it is produced by ‘Theoretical Brahmins’, not by ‘Empirical Shudras’ (Guru and Sarukkai). This leads us to certain fundamental gaps between a ‘lived’ experience on ground and an elite ‘Brahminical’ theory produced on top: Is not the social sciences in India, itself a product of the Chaturvarna system? Who are the ‘owners’, ‘authors’ of these experiences?
This paper further deliberates upon questions like is Dalit-hood merely social stratification or personal experience and by constantly comparing select Gujarati and Marathi Dalit literary narratives the paper interrogates if Dalit literature really ensures emancipation. The focus of the paper is on registering how Dalit literary movement, through its cross-interactions with Dalit theory, struggles between ‘victimhood’ as its stereotypical identity and anti-caste approach as that could ensure movement from margin to the centre space.
key words :Dalit Theory Dalit Movement Empirical Shudras representation
Copyright (c) 2017 Bhargav Oza
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