Tag Archives: Dalit studies

Symposium announcement


Here is an interesting symposium that puts together some very fine thinkers. Satyanarayan from EFLU is putting together an anthology of Dalit writings from South India. I have heard him speak and read his articles. He is an original. Very focused and clear in his thinking. Not at all simplistic in his oppositional discourse. Then there is Umesh, a very fine historian. His earnestness makes his scholarship more valuable. Venkat Rao from EFLU has been speaking the Balagangadhar logic regarding caste. So it would be an interesting exchange to watch out for.

Department of English

A One-day Symposium on Dalit Studies in the Indian Universities

31 March 2010

Venue: Dean Hall, Administrative Building,

SRTM University, Nanded

Concept Note

We deem it necessary to see critically how the dalits across India see an emergent pan-Indian dalit cultural identity. This cultural identity is being articulated through creative writing in many Indian languages. It has been through such creative writings, also known as dalit literature, that the dalits have repudiated norms of untouchability, oppressive caste structure and the normative ideology of brahminism. The emergence of dalit consciousness and dalit voice across India during the last three decades has received considerable attention in the realm of social sciences. However, the so-called mainstream literary theory has largely remained uninfluenced / unaffected by the literary, cultural, theoretical and ideological issues raised by the new writers.

Dalit literature emerged as the revolutionary literature and challenged the norms, standards and principles of the so-called mainstream brahminical literature, aesthetics and literary theory. Dalit literature is not the literature of mere protest or negation. It aims at dismantling the existing structures of exploitation and restructuring the global society.

Started in Marathi during the seventies, dalit literature is now being written in several Indian languages. These literatures, barring languages, do share the egalitarian ideology and expose the exploitative mechanisms latent in the Indian society. The rise of dalit women writers in many parts of India has raised many issues pertaining to brahminical patriarchy, dalit male chauvinism and specificity of the dalit women’s exploitation. Many dalit women writers have refused to subsume their ideological and practical issues in the overarching rubric of Indian feminism. Apart from creative writing, there have been attempts to theorise caste, patriarchy and culture. However, such writings hardly find any space in the curricula in the Indian universities, leaving them lopsided and socially irrelevant.

It is now being widely accepted that educational system is exceptionally important in maintaining the status quo in the society. Curriculum happens to be actual means whereby a particular worldview is inculcated in the learners’ minds. Basil Bernstein suggests how a society, selects, classifies, distributes, transmits and evaluates the educational knowledge it considers to be public, reflects both the distribution of power and the principles of social control. Since the curriculum is a result of deliberate selection and organization of the cultural knowledge in the syllabus, textbook has been the significant issue in educational research. The traditional curriculum designed for courses in literatures at the UG and PG levels has either underrepresented or not represented the literatures produced and theories developed by the subaltern writers and intellectuals. Marginal incorporation of dalit literature into the curriculum, which is predominantly brahminical and patriarchal, only serves to legitimise it.

This symposium aims at discussing the state of courses in dalit studies / literatures in various universities and colleges and hopes to explore the commonalities in the experiences of the teachers committed to contribute to alternative pedagogy. The Department of English of SRTM University, Nanded plans to start an interdisciplinary course in Dalit Studies from the next academic year. The deliberations in this Symposium will also be hopefully useful in designing and conducting of this course.

Resource Persons

Dr. K Satyanarayana (Head, Department of Cultural Studies, EFLU, Hyderabad)

Dr. Venkat Rao (Department of Literatures in English, EFLU, Hyderabad)

Dr. Umesh Bagade (Professor and Head, Department of History, BAMU, Aurangabad)

Prof. Rahul Pungaliya (Dept. of English, Abasaheb Garware College, Pune)

Dr. Bhagwan Jadhav (Dean, Faculty of Arts, SRTM University, Nanded)


Dilip Chavan – dilipchavan@gmail.com

Kancha Ilaiah’s New Book



Kancha Ilaiah is a fascinating thinker and writer. He first made waves with his book Why I am not a Hindu. Parts of that book even appeared in the famed Subaltern Studies. He has to be credited for his concept of ‘dalitization’ which is a very useful sociological concept. He is often difficult to agree with, as his ideas take liberty with facts referred to. But, his works always will provide you insights that are uncommon. He is provocative. Ilaiah is a must read. Here is a review of his new book by Anand Teltumbde, which appeared in Tehelka. Although Teltumbde is critical of this book, you will notice he admits to Ilaiah’s strength of observation. Teltumbde is a fine thinker too. Check out the review.

KANCHA ILAIAH is known for books with explosive titles like Why I Am Not a Hindu and Buffalo Nationalism, but with spiritual content. This book, his latest, follows in the same tradition. At a time when many intellectuals are morbidly worried about the resurgence of Hindutva, Ilaiah boldly sees Hinduism on course of its death because of its “failure to mediate between scientific thought and spiritual thought”. The book is a reflective account of his own journey through castes and communities and highlights everyday clashes of caste cultures and conflict between “the productive ethic of Dalit-Bahujan castes and the anti-productive and anti-scientific ethic of Hindu Brahminism”.

The contents page would catch the fancy of any reader with its catchy phrases like ‘intellectual goondas”, “spiritual fascists”, used for Brahmins and “subaltern scientists”, “meat and milk economists” for the Dalit- Bahujans. The first thing that crossed my mind is that the marketing wing of any publication house will be simply overjoyed with brand ‘Kancha Ilaiah,’ with its potential appeal to the vast market spanning three out of four spiritual worlds (Christian, Islam and Buddhist, excluding Hindu), to make use of his phraseology. Indeed, with his passionate promotion of Dalit-Bahujan and outlandish interpretation of mundane details of life, he has created a unique place for himself among subaltern writers.

Kancha Ilaiah
Sage Publications
316 pp; Rs 295

Reading this book gives you a feel of travelling in a Maglev train — an illusion of running on rails but in fact levitates over a thin layer of air. While traversing through its arguments, the book creates an illusion of being based on truth but is distanced from it by a thin layer of prejudice. There is an overdose of culture and spirituality which could intoxicate readers without them realising it.

If one is not so ‘spiritually’ intoxicated, one suffers from mundane doubts nibbling at his intellect: is this conjoint term ‘Dalit-Bahujan’ sociologically viable, given the huge load of material contradictions between these two population groups that have been precipitating into most heinous caste atrocities? How and why did these worthy ‘spiritual democrats’ or ‘spiritual revolutionaries’ come to emulate the caste hierarchy of Brahmins, the spiritual fascists, within themselves and zealously preserve it? If the Dalit- Bahujans were so accomplished in terms of their scientific and technological prowess, how could they be enslaved by a handful of scheming and spiritually degenerate Brahmins for millennia? The book succeeds in establishing the superiority of Dalit-Bahujans, but doesn’t it essentially follow the very same Brahmanic ethos of superiority-inferiority?

The value of Kancha Iliah’s book lies not so much in its thesis but in the richness of its observations not only on the castes of India, but also on the many people and events in the world.

(Image of Ilaiah and the book are from Tehelka.com)