Probing the Present
The Dalit Reconfiguration of Modernity: Citizens and Castes in the Telugu Public Sphere
Dalit writers and critics argued in the 1980s and the 1990s that they were denied recognition in the Telugu public sphere on the basis of caste identities. Yet they now seek recognition in that sphere on the basis of their caste identities. Dalit claims to self-representation in the Telugu public sphere cannot be read just as claims to produce authentic literature. These are claims specifically made for recognition in the public sphere as poets, writers, scholars, and critics. The essay argues that the shift to the new notion and function of contemporary Dalit writing could be conceptualized by mapping larger structural changes, such as the emergence of the new social groups and the rise of Dalit writing, within the Telugu public sphere and through a reading of Dalit discourse, including Dalit poetry, as forms of debates and literary controversies.
Questions of Representation in Dalit Critical Discourse: Premchand and Dalit Feminism
This essays considers the centrality of the iconic twentieth-century Hindi author Munshi Premchand in an emerging Dalit literary critical discourse. It investigates how Premchand has emerged as a singularly powerful cultural symbol around which Dalit literary and political identities are constituted. It is primarily through a critique of Premchand’s writing that Dalit writers and critics seek to intervene in the mainstream Hindi literary sphere. This essay also shows how these literary-critical debates contextualize ongoing processes of renegotiation of identity and representation in the literary spheres of the Dalit public, specifically related to gender. This brief analysis of the rhetoric of critical counterdiscourses in the Hindi Dalit literary sphere reminds us that caste, class, and gendered identities are regularly repositioned by advocates for the competing interests of diverse social collectivities.
Social Justice and the Question of Categorization of Scheduled Caste Reservations: The Dandora Debate in Andhra Pradesh
This essay interrogates the issue of social justice based on a critical analysis of the categorization debate in Andhra Pradesh, a south Indian state. The Madigas, one of the scheduled castes, demanded the subdivision of the unified quota of 15 percent reservations for scheduled castes. This demand brought to the fore several paradoxes in the system of positive discrimination and also posed a challenge to the principles of social justice. This essay argues that objective of the constitutional principle to institutionalize the system of quotas was to reduce the vast socioeconomic disparities between social classes. It argues that some highly educated castes within the Dalit category have cornered the benefits of affirmative action. The essay illustrates this point through the categorization debate (of delineating quotas for various scheduled castes) between the two prominent Dalit castes in Andhra Pradesh, the Madigas and the Malas. The Madigas’ political groups argued for categorization of the reservations based on the ideas that were to be found in the original principles of the reservation system, while the Malas’ groups based their arguments against categorization on the ideas found in Brahmanism. The essay examines the discussion over the demand for subdivision, the inequalities reproduced by the policy of quotas, and the objectives of the concept of social justice.