In 1965, the critic Manohar Namdeo Wankhade completed a Ph.D. in American literature in the U.S. and returned to Maharashtra, where he published several influential essays for the nascent Marathi Dalit literary movement. This essay examines the role that American literature played in Wankhade's criticism, from early writings on Whitman's “spiritual democracy” to essays on the Black Arts Movement and Ralph Ellison, which were repurposed by a generation of Marathi Dalit writers. These writings imagined new terms of Dalit identity outside of the discourse of the Indian nation and the restrictive language of the caste system. By constructing a racialized, “culturally dualistic” America, Wankhade's Marathi essays sought in African American narratives a way of describing the historical trauma, alienated labor, and “double consciousness” of Black life that could resonate with Dalit subjectivity and the ongoing injustices of caste prejudice and violence.

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