Overview for Dalit Identity and Politics: Cultural Subordination and the Dalit Challenge (Volume 2)
The Dalits, once known as "untouchables" have from time immemorial been socially and economically oppressed, culturally subjugated and politically marginalised. However, in recent times they have begun to assert themselves and have launched movements aimed at ushering in a new social order based on the principles of equality and liberty. Even though many Dalits have, as a consequence, reached positions of power and prominence, particularly in the political arena, the vast majority of them continue to suffer discrimination, poverty and humiliation and are often targets of inhuman atrocities. Bringing together scholars and activists, this volume examines the many facets of on-going Dalit struggles to improve their position. The discussion is conducted in the framework of four fairly recent developments in the world of the Dalits: Equality for Dalits is increasingly being recognised as a desirable norm in Indian society; Capitalist development has begun to weaken the caste system; Dalits are beginning to experience a modicum of social mobility thanks to policies of positive discrimination;
There has been an unprecedented rise in political consciousness among Dalits in recent times. The contributors critically examine the implications of these developments for Dalits. Providing a perspective from below, they emphasise that though social mobility, economic development and political recognition have benefited a few Dalits, the drawbacks of these changes are manifold. In particular, they have created polarisation among the Dalits, while the minority among them who have benefited are in constant danger of being co-opted by the traditional upper classes. The uniqueness of this volume lies in the thematic approach it uses to explore what it means to be a Dalit in contemporary India. It traces the history of various Dalit struggles and highlights the significance of these movements in the different regions of India, both separately and taken together. It will be of interest to those involved in Dalit studies, sociology, social anthropology, history, politics, ethnicity and cultural studies.
Ghanshyam Shah (Editor)
Ghanshyam Shah is an eminent political scientist who has written extensively on caste, class, communalism and social movements. He was Senior Fellow and Director, Centre for Social Studies, Surat, and till recently, held the Dr. Ambedkar Chair at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie. At present, he is Professor in Social Sciences in Community Health at Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.