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The essay discusses Dalit engagement with the emerging social space in modern Kerala. The movements against caste slavery used the notion of salvation through a creative borrowing from their society and from the Anglican Protestant missionaries in the second half of the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century Dalit social movements addressed the questions of social space and civil society that had a defining impact on modern Kerala society. Several Dalit social and political movements put forward claims to social space and through it a claim to become modern. Access to space became the most contested domain, which motivated Dalits to creatively develop new politics to overcome the barriers they faced. Instead of accepting caste reforms advocated by the upper-caste groups in Kerala, the Dalits through their activism defined an anticaste position. It is in this context that they began to develop new social imaginaries. However, Dalits had to work through structures of dominance and subordination as represented by the dominant castes and state.

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