Cast(e)ing Gender in Dalit Literature

An international conference at Savitribai Phule Pune University

14-15 December 2015

Local organisers: Aniket Jaaware and Chandrani Chatterjee

This conference was the 5th event organised within the AHRC-funded Research Network Series ‘Writing, Analysing, Translating Dalit Literature’.  It was hosted by the English Department at Savitribai Phule Pune University. The focus of this conference was the representation of gender in Dalit literature. We asked for contribution that addressed questions such as: How is (Dalit) masculinity and femininity reconfigured in Dalit novels, autobiographies, poems, short stories and films? How do Dalit literary texts reflect, challenge, or otherwise transform the production of gendered identities of Dalit subjects and citizens in historical and political discourse? Has Dalit literature taken up the specific challenges posed by Dalit feminist activism, or otherwise challenged the impasse of hegemonic feminism with regard to the question of representation? To what extent do these texts take up the questions of aesthetics, politics and representation and how do they challenge certainties?

The conference followed a workshop format that included discussions with writers, scholars and keynote speakers as well as traditional panel sessions.

Click here to see the conference flyer.

See below the list of abstracts for this two day conference:

List of abstracts

Panels

‘Woman’ in Dalit Women Writing: a Collective panel chaired by Urmila Pawar

Chhaya Koregaonkar (poems); Pr. Maya Pandit (literature and translation); Prof. Ashalata Kamble (literature and criticism)

Both dalit men and women got educated and began writing in the same period. Since women were bound by customs, traditions and patriarchy women fell short on both fronts. Both men and women are inspired by Ambedkar’s thoughts. Naturally caste consciousness is the subject of their writing. But caste coupled with gender discrimination brings intense misery, pain and insult to women. Dalit men writers did not make this aspect subject of their writing.  The mother figure immersed in traditional toil did become subject of their respect. The same is true to a certain extent with the ‘sister’ figure. Other women were seen at the surface level. Her suffering, subordination, awareness of her rights remained restricted to the caste question.  It was observed that women’s writing did express awareness beyond the caste question. While tracing this awareness we can mark three stages such as

  1. Conversion of 1956
  2. Women’s movement of 1975
  3. Globalisation of 1990

Dalit women writers do not write about Hindu deities after the conversion to Buddhism. There are no traces of Hindu icons, myths and symbols. Instead the writing is inspired by Buddhist literature i.e. stories of Theries and life stories of individuals from that era. Women writers relied on it.

The influence of women’s liberation ideas increased after 1975. Woman should come out of men’s dominance. Woman is not a commodity. She is an individual in her own right. She has a mind of her own. She needs freedom and space. Such ideas became part of the milieu. Dalit women also breathed the same air. The writing reflected this mood. The message from recurrent caste atrocities finding echo in Dalit men’s thinking focused on the caste question relegating woman’s question to the margin. Women vacillated between the caste and gender question. Thus their writing got slotted into caste question. Issues around opposition to rituals, traditions did become subject of their writing. The impact of the Dalit movement and literature is found outside the state of Maharashtra. Dalit women writers show this trend even there.

Some dalit women writers wrote from a feminist perspective. They are also talking about non-dalit women. But in the feminist movement, writers did not take a conscious note of the caste injustice dalit women are subjected to. Their perception ‘all women are dalit’ led to a flattening of the woman’s question. This led dalit, bahujan women writers to initiate ‘dalit feminism’ in 1990. The discussions revolved around satyashodhak (truth seeking) feminism born out of the adivasi, dalit, bahujan woman’s question and non-brahminist feminism. At last they declared that, ‘Feminism is attainable and will be successful only when the dalit woman on the lowest rung achieves freedom from all social restrictions and commodification.’ They built their feminism on this ideological premise.

India heralded globalization with its new arms of exploitation of woman, just when dalit feminism was taking root in 1990. Capitalism, communalism (relating to caste and religion) became all powerful. Once again women were seen as commodities. Atrocities on dalit women flared up. It was a trying period for the feminist movement and writing. Despite that, woman on the lowest rung is awaiting the re-advent of Phule-Ambedar ideology and her liberation. This panel intends to trace and examine how dalit women writers have taken notice of changing times and the emotional turmoil resulting from the complex process mentioned above.

Urmila Pawar will discuss short stories, novels and dramas of Dalit Women. Ashalata Kamble will explore the impact of Buddhist Their on Dalit women writer. Chhaya Koregaonkar will talk about the Poems of Dalit women. Maya Pandit speak about the Marathi dalit women’s writing in comparison with male dalit writers in Marathi and the gender concerns in the writing of some dalit women from other states.

 

The director Jayan K. Cherian in Conversation with Judith Misrahi-Barak and Nicole Thiara

The film director and poet Jayan K. Cherian will discuss the representation of gender, sexuality and caste in his two feature films Papilio Buddha (2013) and Ka Bodyscapes (to be released in 2016), both of which are set in Kerala.

Papers

Atul Anand, Assistant Professor (Mass Media), Don Bosco College, Panjim, Goa, India

Interpreting Masculinities: Introducing and Archiving Anti-caste Writings

In 2014, Navayana brought out a critical annotated edition of ‘Annihilation of Caste’ which is an undelivered speech by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. In 1936, Ambedkar had self-published his undelivered speech as a booklet when a Lahore based Hindu reformist group Jat Pat Todak Mandal denied him the opportunity to deliver the speech. Navayana claims itself to be ‘India’s first and only’ anti-caste publication. The new critical annotated edition of ‘Annihilation of Caste’ carried an introduction ‘The Doctor and the Saint’ by Arundhati Roy and annotations by S. Anand. There have been controversies on the introduction and the annotations; critiques from Dalit men were branded as ‘misogynistic’ and ‘xenophobic’. This paper attempts to understand the problems with upper caste writers introducing and annotating anti-caste writings; and interpret masculinities by analysing Dalit Bahujan feminist writings.

Following the controversy, a piece titled ‘Un-owning – Archives in General, Ambedkar in Particular’ had appeared in Kafila blog by Rajshree Chandra. In this blog piece, she discusses archiving and copyright issues with such text as well as ‘appropriation’ and ‘authenticity’ issues.  It would be important to discuss and contextualize the issue of archiving and ownership with regard to the castes which have structural control over knowledge production and dissemination. Can Dalits ‘own’ Ambedkar?

 

Neha Arora, Assistant Professor of English, Central University of Rajasthan, India

Dalit Women as ‘Body’: Re-defining Dalit Patriarchy

The impression of ‘surplus’ woman makes Dalit Women vulnerable to be ‘used’ by the upper caste men. The overtly sensuous images of Sohini (Untouchable) and Chandri and Belli (Samskara) corroborate the point thus made. Dalit critics (male) castigate such portrayals for being insulting to their women. However, the present paper attempts to divert the attention towards the dalits themselves to deliberate upon the existence of ‘Graded Patriarchies’ (Uma Chakravarti) amongst them that reduce their women to mere ‘body’. The Dalit community cannot be absolved from ‘silencing’ their women by using various forms of patriarchal violence. As opposed to Kancha Ilaiah’s proclamation of ‘democratic patriarchy’ in the dalit household, we actually witness the dance of brahminical patriarchy.

Sharankumar Limbale (Akkarmashi) and Kishore Shantabai Kale (Against All Odds) give an insider’s view of the naked play of patriarchy that pawns its women to new customer every night. The customs of chira utarna of the Kolhati women (Against All Odds) and the ‘whoring’ of the daughters (Akkarmashi) would be used as the main thrust in my discussion. The paper endeavours to draw the curtains apart from the ‘Manuwadi Sanskrit’ (Sharmila Rege) in the Dalit males and to critique Indian Feminist Movement and Dalit Liberation Movement that have invariably ignored the cause of Dalit women.

 

Rashmi Attri, Associate Professor, English, AMU, India

Dalit Womanism:  Reading Dalit Women’s Poetry

Marred and sidelined by mainstream feminism, Dalit women took it upon themselves to give vent to their experiences and concerns; moving from the periphery to the centre. These women produced volumes of literature such as autobiographies, poetry, and short stories etc. that speak for the Dalit women’s identity and champion the cause of the Dalit movement. Dalit women poets talk differently from their male counterparts and upper caste women, usurping and transgressing the territory monopolised by male and later by mainstream feminists.

The paper attempts to explore the select poems of Kalyani Thakur, Kusum Aatram, Jyoti Lanjewar, Teresamma and Hira Bansode from a gender perspective. The paper highlights the point that these poets hailing from different cultural and social backgrounds have suffered the triple oppression of patriarchy, caste and class and all have tried to break these shackles with significant success. Their poetry depicts and articulates the whole range of emotions- pain, deprivation, captivity, humiliation and anger and their eventual survival. Dalit women’s voices challenges both the high caste politics and Dalit patriarchy. These poets reconstruct the notion of Dalit women, give them voice and create their own identity despite all odds. Today they take pride in their self and celebrate their Dalit womanhood. Dalit women attain the ‘subject’ position, which was traditionally denied to them, either as victim or fighter. These women negotiate different subject positions mapped out for them. Through their writings they strive to redraw and reformulate the feminist dialogue to accommodate the majority of women into it. Thus, they fight homogenisation and stress the diversity of women’s experiences thus defying certainties. Their poetry has a social purpose – that of fighting for the rights of Dalit women, for their identity.  Like their male counterparts these poets also discard the rhythmic and flowery language, their tongue is rather sharp with which they fight their caste based oppression.

The paper ascertains that Dalit gender is a separate entity, demanding autonomy with reference to literature and culture, stressing the need to accommodate various and diverse viewpoints. The paper also stresses the fact that even the experiences of Dalit women are not same always.

 

Drishadwati Bargi, Junior Research Fellow, M.Phil, School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India

 A Critique of M.N. Srinivas’s Concept of Sanskritisation from a Caste-Gendered Lens

Formulated by M.N Srinivas, the founding father of Indian Sociology, the concept of sanskritisation has had a huge impact in the interpretation of anti-caste movements, individual experiences of upward mobility of dalits and the changes in gender roles following that mobility, for an unnaturally long period of time. Often used interchangeably with another concept, i.e brahminisation, the former concept is often evoked in order to explain processes of co-optation, appropriation of dalit voice and agency as well as failure and limitation of dalit movements. In spite of a succinct critique by historian David Hardiman, who has demonstrated the interrelationship between practices of imitation and tensions in power dynamic between the super ordinates and the subordinates which accompany those practices, scholarship on caste continues to use it unproblematically, wherein changes in practices or ways of living by dalits are perceived as products of individual choice or failure. The concept reigns supreme particularly in the interpretation of the changes in man-woman relationship, which either follow changes in social status or are often accompanied by it. The conclusions drawn by such scholarships often posit dalit woman as the victim of the masculinity ‘crisis’ of the newly empowered dalit man. One of the chief problems  with that interpretation is that it simultaneously erases the  neglected  history  of  participation  of dalit women in anti-caste struggles  and  reads anti-caste struggles as inherently  patriarchal, thereby neglecting the conceptual linkage  between  caste  and  patriarchy  that  was  made  by  the  anti caste theoreticians  like  Ambedkar and Phule. Through an analysis of Urmila Pawar’s autobiography The Weave of My Life I would attempt to problematise the abovementioned conclusions about dalit movement that are arrived at when the latter is examined through the conceptual lens of ‘sanskritisation’. As the autobiography reflects upon the lives of women who are not only passive companions of dalit men struggling to challenge the existing status quo but are active participants often leading other dalits in their struggles, becoming their support and archiving their histories as storytellers, it complicates the very concept of imitation of practices of upper castes, individual choice of the dalit man or woman, and the ‘patriarchy of the newly empowered dalit man’. Patriarchal practices by dalit men are not distinctively marked out as stemming from their specific upward mobility but as part of their membership in a patriarchal society. While their subordinate status is emphasised, the onus of sexism is not shifted to brahminism. Dalit men are held accountable for the subordination of dalit women. However, through a dalit feminist reading of Ambedkarite struggle, Urmila Pawar posits struggle against patriarchal oppression as part of the former struggle so that the Ambedkarite subject imagined by her is not only anti-brahminical but also anti-patriarchal.

 

Chandrani Chatterjee, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Savitribai Phule Pune University, India; and Epsita Halder, Assistant Professor, Department of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India

Gendering Dalit Muslim Writing in Bengal

While it is discursively difficult to use Dalit Literature as a generic category to read literature written by Muslim authors on subaltern Muslims in Bengal; it seems possible that the historical, political, social and aesthetic dimensions of the community be understood beyond traditional scholarships if we use the Dalit lens. The Muslim society with its heterogeneity, inherent power dynamics and processes of marginalization, sexual economy, inherent contradiction and overlap between the scriptural and the ritualistic, are some aspects that can perhaps be discussed constructively using the notion of ‘Dalit’ as an analytical category.

To explain the presence of the Muslim majority in the demographic region of Bengal with an otherwise minimum Muslim military or scriptural intervention, a school of conversion theorists have already used the social-liberalization theory. Recent propounders of the Dalit-Muslim liaison are basing their argument on the process of conversion of populations from the lower professional groups (caste) into Islam. The Perso-Arabic-inclined elite has always been queasy about imagining any egalitarianism shared with these new converts, thereby forming an inherent caste system. Caste and its various embodiments are expressed in the transaction between the scriptural and the ritualistic, between economic marginalization and traditional education. But sometimes, caste may seem inadequate to understand socio-ritualistic categories like that of the Baul.

With this kind of backdrop, in the present paper, we would like to place the experience of women in the context of these social-historical-economic dynamics. In the process we hope to be able to indicate the complex interconnections between caste and gender and its further ramifications in the larger cultural context. Some of the questions that we intend to pose in our study are: Can we look upon ‘woman’ as a monolithic category for Muslim community if we try to look at ‘Dalitness’ as context-specific and historically formed for any local Muslim community? How does one talk about desire, or its impossibility, in the context of scripture and economy – the two markers to interpret Dalitness? Can ‘woman’, as a diverse and common sociality, be used to understand several kinds of Dalitness for Muslim communities in Bengal? We will try to unpack some of these questions by reading select short stories of two Bengali writers – Abul Bashar (b. 1951) and Afsar Ahmad (b. 1962).

 

Asis De, Assistant Professor of English Language and Literature, Department of English, Mahishadal Raj College (Govt. Sponsored Post Grad College), Mahishadal, West Bengal, India

Representation of Female Subjugation and Domestic Violence in P. Sivakami’s The Taming of Women (2012)

Usually, the representation of women in Indian Dalit literature is weighed with double subjugation: caste and gender. But in the writings of one of the leading Indian Dalit novelist-poet-activist from Tamilnadu — Palanimuthu Sivakami, the issue of gender is even more prominent than that of the caste. To Sivakami, ‘the problems of Dalit women are considered separatist. They face the worst expressions of male chauvinistic society – atrocities like raping, profiling, physical assault and murder’. This paper proposes to focus on her much acclaimed novel The Taming of Women (2012), [translated from the Tamil original by Pritam K. Chakravarty] and to concentrate on the representation of Dalit women in a semi-urban domestic space.

The Taming of Women also portrays the strange type of misdirected hatred women reserve for each other in the domestic space, a socio- cultural interpellation where the worst discrimination and judgment comes from ‘other’ women around. Instead of focusing the violent hatred towards her womanizer husband Periyannan, the protagonist Anandhayi finds the source of her hatred in the women her husband sleeps with. Her tribulations in bringing up her daughters Dhanam, Arul, and Kala is perhaps best captured in the lines, ‘Having a girl in the house is like having a fire in the belly (…) I will have peace only when I hand her over to a husband’. Herself being a victim of domestic violence, Anandhayi still relies upon the role of the husband as protector of women. This paper would also investigate how the women in Periyannan’s household just become mere ‘female’ bodies subject to patriarchal torment by the ‘protector’.

 

Gopika Jedeja, National University of Singapore, South Asian Studies Programme

 Mother as fucked: re-imagining Dalit female sexuality

In his introduction to Gujarati Dalit poet Sahil Parmar’s selected poems titled Mathaman (Churning), Dr. G. V. Vankar invokes the American poets Carolyn Rodgers and Allen Ginsberg. Vankar quotes from Rodgers’ The Last M. F. ‘: i say,/that i only call muthafuckas, muthafuckas/
so no one should be insulted’ and Ginsberg’s declaration ‘I have achieved the introduction of the word fuck into texts inevitably studied by schoolboys’ to introduce Parmar’s poem ‘Hun jammyo tyaare balak na hato’ ( I was not a child when I was born):

When I was born, I was not a child

But a dream

The dream dreamt by my mother

Who has been fucked for thousands of years

A dream of burning revolt

Against boiling injustice (translation mine)

 

Parmar’s poem possesses both the wit and excess of Rodgers as well as the abandon of Ginsberg in his attempt to challenge upper caste masculinity as well to re-cast both Dalit femininity and masculinity. This challenge to the upper caste male gaze along with a re-definition of the
Dalit male gaze is evident also in Parmar’s love poems from ‘Mathaman’. Through an exploration of Sahil Parmar’s poetry I attempt to raise questions about Dalit masculinity as well as femininity. Under the upper caste male gaze Dalit males have been de-sexualised. Through an examination of Parmar’s poetry I attempt to unpack ideas of the Dalit female body and femininity under the Dalit male gaze in relation to Dalit femininity leading to a reclaiming of Dalit male sexuality and mascuilinity.

This paper will also engage with the aesthetics of Dalit poetry and the use of excess in poetry that Parmar was compelled to present in the pages of ‘Nata Marg’ where the poem ‘When I was born’ was first published.

 

Shivani Kapoor, Ph.D. Scholar, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, India

A Pox Upon Your House – The Female Contours of a Dalit Male Autobiography

Laura Brueck has suggested that Hindi Dalit autobiographical literature largely constructs a hegemonic ‘male, urban, middle-class Dalit identity’ through its narratives. However Tulsi Ram’s two volume autobiography – Murdhaiya and Manikarnika, provides us with a counterfactual to the canonical Dalit male/masculine figure. The pox marked Tulsi Ram is anyways not a great figure for Dalit masculinity – he has been stained by the angry goddess Sitala Mata. It is this mark of the female/feminine on the autobiographical Tulsi Ram that the paper wants to explore.

Tulsi Ram brings out beautiful affective histories of women in what would otherwise be considered a ‘male’ autobiographical narrative. In doing so, his writing raises a methodological question about writing ‘one-self’ – Can a Dalit male autobiography ever have a strong female/feminine presence? Or will this presence threaten to fundamentally alter the nature of self-referential writing itself?

This paper proposes to examine Tulsi Ram’s writings in the light of these questions and seeks to interrogate the social and political mores of Dalit male/masculinity, through the women of Murdhaiya and Manikarnika. In particular the paper will focus on three characters – ‘Musadiya’ – the grandmother, whose world is constituted by her treasured ‘Bistorias’ and the ghosts which keep her company through fading memory and age; ‘Nataniya’ – the Nat girl, blissfully unaware of social mores, who befriends Tulsi Ram in her desire to speak English; and a composite of mad, diseased, ill-omened women who meaningfully inhabit Tulsi Ram’s world.

These women not only disrupt the maleness of a male Dalit autobiography but also challenge the dominant image of a rational, autonomous, coherent self, which comes attendant with the autobiographical genre. The female world of ghosts, superstitions and forgotten histories instead create the ‘dividual’ of Tulsi Ram, which marks a break from the ‘urban-male-middle class’ Dalit of earlier formulations. It is this break and Tulsi Ram’s alternative to the question of authorship and experience that this paper seeks to explore.

 

Kiran Keshavamurthy, Assistant Professor, Cultural Studies, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, India

Between Caste and Gender: P. Sivakami’s The Grip of Change and Gowri: Author’s Notes

The Tamil writer P Sivakami’s sequential novels The Grip of Change (Pazhaiyana Kalithalum, 1989) and Gowri: Author’s Notes (Gowri: Aasiriyar Kurippu, 1999) were written in the wake of the Bodi caste riots in Tamil Nadu between dalits (pallars) and thevars. Dalits mobilized themselves around a dalit leader when she for raped and killed by upper caste landlords for demanding higher wages. At a protest meeting, a dalit political leader is reported to have said, ‘What would happen if all dalit men were to marry upper caste women?’ This led to a violent backlash resulting in the loss of dalit lives and property. The reasons for raping the dalit leader lay in suppressing a dalit woman who was overstepping her subordinate status by publicly demanding higher wages. Thus caste functioned in markedly gendered ways in public spaces.

As a response to this event, Sivakami’s novels focused on the body of the dalit woman as a fictional and rhetorical figure for the fraught relationship between caste, gender and sexuality. The novel centers on the exploited and supposedly violable body of the dalit woman, which is inscribed with inter-caste struggles for power even as it is constituted as a site of resistance. Over the course of the narratives, it becomes impossible to articulate caste and gender and sexuality at once. Caste turns out to be the overarching structure that regulates gender and sexuality primarily through the body of the (dalit) woman. There is no space in this structure to articulate questions of sexual violence that are clearly elided by caste violence, which subordinates the dalit woman to the male interests of the dalit community. The second novel is the author’s reflection on the possibility of re-imagining the inter-sectionalities between caste, gender and sexuality.

 

Lissa Lincoln, American University in Paris, France

Literature : Instrument of Subversion or the Master’s Tools?

Long before the advent of ‘feminism’, ‘gender studies’ or ‘intersectionality’, literature has identified, exposed and subverted the power structures that undergird and inform all human societies and cultures.  From classical theatre to avant-garde poetry to post-modern ficton, to name but a few, literature has always played a powerful role in the representation (and denunciation) of systematized oppression and injustice. But to what extent can literature really escape the structures of power that in part produce it (if only via its dependence on language) in order to critique it? What are the limitations of its legitimacy to ‘represent’ the oppressed? What is its response faced with  Audre Lorde’s observation that ‘the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house’? Drawing on the theoretical frameworks of Michel Foucault, Raewyn Connell  and Pierre Bourdieu, we will examine these questions within in the context of Dalit literature and, more specifically,  its relation to gender, through the juxtaposition of a few select works (Bama, Baburao Bagul) against African American authors (Lorde, Morrison),  whose work grapple with these same questions of oppression and representation. Do, in fact ‘ […] literary texts reflect, challenge, or otherwise transform the production of gendered identities of […] subjects and citizens in historical and political discourse?’ or do they, rather, and however unknowingly, consolidate and perpetuate the very power structures they claim to condemn?

 

Mukta Mahajan, Professor, School of Language Studies and Research Centre, North Maharashtra University, Jalgaon (M.S.), India

 From Self-colonization to De-colonization: A Study of Sharankumar Limbale’s Chhuachhut

Analysis of Dalit literature in the wake of Post-Colonial literature, figures at lot many similarities – the idea of colonization, the issue of identity, gender and above all the question of human dignity. Dalit community accepted the rule of upper classes exactly in the same manner the colonized countries accepted the rule of the British. One was in the name of business and politics and the other was in the name of religion and tradition. Therefore it will be significant to study the journey of Dalit people from self-colonization to de colonization as reflected in their literature. This is like denying the double consciousness and becoming conscious about one’ own identity and dignity as a human being.

Present paper is an attempt to analyse the dimensions of caste and gender reflected in the short stories written by Sharankumar Limbale in Chhuachhut translated by Nishikant Thakar. The short stories explore the world of Dalit Experiences, the self-colonization of the characters, mincing of their identity, the confident conflict of the Dalits for equality, emancipation and dignity and the beginning of resultant de colonization.

Chhuachhut, the collection of short stories is divided into three sections. The stories in the first section are written from the viewpoint of an upper class, the stories from second section are from the view point of Dalits and the stories from third section are about Dalit women. These stories do not limit themselves to the experience of the writer but represent the victimization of the Dalits and their confident rejection of the same.

 

Padmini Mongia, Professor, English Department, Franklin & Marshall College, Pennsylvania, USA

Cast(e) Back In: Amish Tripathi’s Mythic Popular

Amish’s Shiva Trilogy has sold over 2 million copies and is soon to be made into a film.  (Amish Tripathi now only goes by his first name, Amish.)  Not books one would immediately associate with a conference on Dalit literature, this popular trilogy is nevertheless worth examining in terms of caste.  The immense popularity of Amish’s books reveals what a large segment of India wants to read.  Since his mythological worlds reflect contemporary ones, Amish’s fictions offer an interesting conduit for understanding some of India’s current concerns.

What are the implications of Amish’s creation of Sati, Shiva’s wife, as an untouchable?  Born a Vikarma, she may be high born but she is an untouchable due to sins committed in her previous lives. Vikarma rules prevent marriage, yet Shiva marries her and dissolves the oppressive Vikarma laws he calls obsolete. In their marriage both are rulers, warriors, lovers, and administrators, showing a remarkable equity in their relations. Together, Shiva and Sati are able to effect an environmental and social cleansing, so that they create worlds in which respect and love for others, especially excluded others, is a primary feature.

Does such a world speak both of and to longings in contemporary India? Just as Shiva’s muscular masculinity needs thought, so does the strength, vitality, and untouchability of Sati.  Amish’s interest in social reform is buttressed by his faith in Shiva: Amish is not merely a believer but a man who has received a call to which he’s responded. His enormous success is virtually proof of his chosenness and inseparable from efforts to understand his popularity.  How, then, might we read Amish—the believer, the reformer, the storyteller—to understand gender and caste issues in contemporary India today?

 

Nalini Pai, Assistant Professor at St Joseph’s College of Arts and Science, Bangalore, India

Standing up for herself

A vast amount of writing by Dalits is today easily accessible thanks to the number of translations of books from regional languages. In the recent past, writing by Dalit women has been the area that has garnered a lot of attention. In the hierarchy, the Dalit man is seen as suppressed and the Dalit woman is seen as doubly marginalised. However, works by Bama, a Dalit woman writer from Tamil Nadu and Gogu Shyamala, a Dalit writer from Telengana seem to suggest otherwise. Both these writers look at the dalit girl/woman as someone who stands up for her rights and puts up a fight against injustices meted out to her. Bama’s women characters show remarkable courage in the face of adversity and even look for ways to save their men folk who are in trouble (Vanmam). While Bama’s Sangati shows women as custodians of a vibrant culture, Shyamala’s women characters display a strong sense of independence and selfhood who do not hesitate to retaliate when a lustful landlord tries to sexually molest them (‘Tataki wins again’) or when the landlord tries to silence them when they ask for their land (‘Why shouldn’t a Baindla woman ask for her land?’). Shyamala also shows women as performers who sing and enact ancient stories showcasing the legends and myths associated with castes like the Mala and the Madiga (‘Jambava’s Lineage’) This paper attempts to look at select works of both the above mentioned writers and see how they challenge popular perceptions of the dalit woman as victim. The paper will also look closely at how the woman stands up for herself refusing to be cowed down by the brutality of the man, both within her community as well as men of the upper castes.

 

Chandra Sekhar, Ph.D Scholar, Department of Cultural Studies, EFL-U, Hyderabad, India

Caste and Gender: Portrayal of Dalit Persona in Telugu Cinema

This paper aims at drawing a trajectory of how Telugu cinema has grown in its portrayal of Dalits over decades. Though Telugu films are written, directed and produced by a dominant set of people that celebrate the tastes and values of upper caste sensitives, there were some efforts in bringing the Dalit subjectivity on the silver screen. In early films like Malapilla (1938) the representation of Dalit persona and his/her ideological and moral characteristic reflect the Gandhian visualisation of the ‘Harijan’ that is dependent, submissive and suitable to the ethics of socio-cultural Brahmanical values. Telugu cinema dealt mainly with the superficial populist stereotypes of the Dalit lives and hardly entered into the core debate of social realities. The Dalits are presented as submissive animate selves, degraded and destitute with almost no hope for a better future (Jayam Manadera, 2000, Leader, 2010). It never occurred to any film maker to portray a Dalit protagonist fighting against social evils or as a great artist or a great leader. The paper also deals with the films belonging to the later decades of the twentieth century and looks at the changes that a Dalit persona (Avunanna Kaadanna, 2005) especially women’s character has gone through over years. Films like Osey Ramulamma (1997) has been explored the rebelliousness and fighting spirit among rural Dalit women. Cinema is a system of signifier and codes where meaning is conveyed through signs and codes. Present paper also looks at how lower caste origins can be attributed to the characters through symbols and codes by the audience, despite the absence of any mention of his/her caste status in the film itself as popular Telugu cinema rarely contains explicit reference to caste.

 

Shoma Sen, Associate Professor, Department of English, RTM Nagpur University, Nagpur, India

Layers of Pain: intersection of class, caste and gender in the Autobiography of Sushila Takbhoure

Sushila Takbhoure, a hindi dalit writer from Nagpur, belongs to the Valmiki Samaj, mostly sanitation workers, who are considered even lower, in the caste hierarchy than the Mahars of Maharastra. Having converted to Buddhism and following Ambedkarite ideology the Mahar caste has moved comparatively higher in the social ladder but the Valmiki Samaj continues to be discriminated and get employed along their caste occupation even today. For a woman hailing from this background to become a college lecturer, a PhD holder and a writer of poetry, stories and a play, is no mean achievement. However, as her autobiography, Shikanje ke Dard reveals, Sushila had to struggle against huge odds of caste and gender discrimination even in the era of globalization and so called postmodernism. Though by virtue of her profession she had crossed the boundaries of economic class, as well, her neighbours, coming from a lower economic strata but slightly higher caste would refer to her family as “sweepers”. Keeping in mind the theme of the conference, this paper will focus on the types of patriarchal structures that kept Sushila in their grip, both within her community and from without and examine the concepts of dalit feminism. What comes as a cause of concern to the feminist reader is the fact that in spite of severe domestic violence, both of the physical and mental kind, Sushila did not abandon her family. Of equal concern to the reader as critic is the fact that though Sushila has been invited abroad as a speaker at seminars and travelled all over India in the same respect, she has not been given the same recognition in the caste ridden society of Nagpur, where she lives and worked.  Is it the absence of “literariness” in her works or her outspoken script that led to these circumstances is another matter of concern. Using the works of Indian feminist critics like Sharmila Rege, Uma Chakravarthi, Susie Tharu and Suma Chitnis, this paper will explore the autobiography Shikanje ke Dard to see how gender, caste and class inequalities form the layers of pain that inspired her writing.

 

Bijaya Kumar Sethi, Ph.D Scholar (English), School of HSS, Indian Institute of Technology Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India

Mapping Multiple Marginalities and Exploring Dalit Women’s World: A Comparative Study of Dalit Men’s and Women’s Autobiographical Narratives

 With the rise of marginal literatures which stress the authenticity of experience, in terms of caste, class, color, race, gender and sexuality such as African American literature, Dalit literature, and feminist literature, literary representation of such lives by any ‘outsider’ has legibly been brought into interrogation with an intention to create a space for the subjects to voice their own experience and to restrict the ‘other’ from misrepresenting them.  The case is even more exclusive and difficult to draw upon when one argues for a subcategory like ‘Dalit women’, not only to demonstrate their multiple marginalities in terms of caste and gender but also to pin down their silence and misrepresentation in the literature produced by Dalit men folk. The paper intends a comparative analysis between Sharankumar Limbale’s Akkarmashi (1984), Aravinda Malagatti’s Government Brahmana (1994), Omprakash Valmiki’s Joothan (1997), and Bama’s Sangati (1994), Viramma’s Viramma (2000), Urmila Power’s The Weave of My Life (2003), to observe how differently Dalit women are portrayed in Dalit men’s autobiographical narratives in comparison to Dalit women’s autobiographical narratives. The presence of Dalit women in Dalit men’s autobiographical narrative is passive and very often portrayed as silent, obedient and dependent wives or as affectionate and soft-spoken mothers who sacrifice almost everything for their family.  They seldom speak about their sexuality, desires or the ingrained patriarchy within the community. On the contrary, the women voices in Dalit women’s autobiographies are raw who talk openly about their sexuality, desire, patriarchy and sexual violence both inside and outside the community. They speak a different language of caste and gender through which a separate world of Dalit women comes into view. The paper attempts to dig out some of these differences and specialties that Dalit women’s life contains, and thus, sensitizes the necessity of perceiving Dalit women’s writing as a subcategory within Dalit literary arena.

 

Kanak Yadav, Research scholar at Centre for English Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

‘Writing Gender’: The Politics of Form in P. Sivakami’s The Grip of Change and Author’s Notes

Dalit Literature has primarily been read for its sociological merit—voicing the wrongs suffered by the dalits through their attempt towards self-representation. However, overt sociological readings of Dalit literature end up overlooking the formal experimentation, challenges to traditional aesthetics and debates over authenticity that Dalit Literature has constantly aimed to foreground. In this paper presentation, I seek to interrogate the normative modes of being a dalit writer—the demand for autobiographical narratives, its consumption, and the need for the writer to legitimate their works as “authentic” portrayals of lived realities—in order to bring out what I would term as “the politics of belonging” to a canon. Analyzing English translations of Tamil Dalit writer- P. Sivakami’s novels: Pazhaiyana Kazhithalum(1989) translated as The Grip of Change (2006) and its sequel- Asiriyar Kurippu (1997) translated as Author’s Notes (2006), I want to address the fundamental dichotomy that exists between the novel and the sequel –interrogating the writer’s gesture to revisit her own work and what politics does that serve. If The Grip of Change was a major departure from the dominant dalit narratives—portraying a highly ambiguous picture of dalit-worlds and the dalit movement—its sequel aims to clarify the writer’s politics assimilating her into the canon by discrediting the earlier work. Hence this paper aims to explore the anxieties of being and becoming a dalit writer. While The Grip of Change portrayed dalit men in power-position –both serving the cause as well as further marginalizing the other dalits, Author’s Notes ends up delegitimizing what the first novel achieved. Therefore the questions worth-exploring are: does Sivakami’s re-visitation of her novel serve in strengthening her interrogation of gender-relations or does it reveal how she succumbs to the pressures of the canon to yield a humanist account of the dalit subjects—many of whom take inspiration from her personal life.

 

Vinod Verma, Associate Professor, Department of English, Maharaja Agrasen College, University of Delhi, India

Caste & Gender in Dalit Hindi Writings: Dalit Childhood of Dalit Women and Dalit Men

Caste beliefs and behaviours in India are paradoxically rigid and flexible and workably wall up subjects intrapersonally, interpersonally and as a group or community within community. Caste, therefor, functions as a performative act that essentially requires performance of caste beliefs as texts. Dalit writings in Hindi in the last three decades have been engaged in identifying, recognising and exploring these belief and behaviour systems by producing a critique of caste and its relation to religious scriptures, slavery, culture and politics. Omprakash Valmiki’s Joothan and Dr. Tulsi Ram’s Murdahiya are leading examples of this discourse. But the labour as division and caste as division of labourers does not sustain at a deeper social structural level when patriarchy and caste highly depend on gender as division of the division of labourers. Lately, the entry of dalit Hindi women writers in dalit Hindi literature in the last one decade or so has led to interrogating patriarchy and caste in general and caste and gender in particular. Hindi dalit women writers include Rajni Tilak, Rajat Rani Meenu, Ravinder Kaur, Rajni Disodia, Hemlata Maheshwar, Rajni Anuragi, Anita Bharti, Rani Kumari, Manisha Badgujar, Rani Kumari, Poonam Tumashar, Kaushal Pawar and many more. This paper will focus on recognising and exploring the nature and conditions of these women’s gender of dalithood in their dalit childhood asking the question of whether dalit woman’s childhood is caught up in caste and gender oppression as two layers but inseparable in dalit women’s lives as compared to male dalit childhood caught up only in caste oppression. All the texts for this paper are the ones published in dalit magazine Maghar’s special issue (Jan. 2013) on Dalit Childhood which has included childhood episodes of dalit women and dalit men in it.

 

See below the biographical detail of our speakers.

List of bios

Atul Anand currently works as an Assistant Professor of Mass Media at Don Bosco College, Goa. He has done a Master’s degree in Media and Cultural Studies from School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.  His Master’s degree dissertation, titled as ‘Representation and Hindi Newspapers: A study in Bihar and Jharkhand’, looks at the issue of news and its relations with representation of different social groups in Hindi newspapers. Atul Anand has presented two conference papers, ‘The Politics of Representation: Whose Media Is It Anyway?’ in December 2014 at Frames of Reference, Mumbai and ‘Hindutva Culture: Threat for subaltern and control over newsrooms’ in July, 2014 at IAMCR conference, Hyderabad. He is co-director of three documentary films, ‘Natraj Bhojpuriya’ (2015), ‘Caste on the Menu Card’ (2014), and ‘Human for Sale’ (2012) which deal with the issues of migrant workers, beef-ban and human trafficking respectively. anand.atul@outlook.com

Neha Arora is working as Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Central University of Rajasthan. She has obtained her doctorate in Dalit Literature from University of Lucknow. She has co-edited Major Voices in New Literatures in English and Mahesh Dattani: Themes, Techniques and Issues and has published papers on varied themes, ranging from Dalit Literature to African and to Indian English Literature, in books and also in reputed national and international journals. She is also Associate Editor of The Expression: An International Bi-Monthly Multidisciplinary e-Journal and member of Editorial Boards of many academic bodies such as Indian Journal of Comparative Literature and Translation Studies and Alchemist Journal of Humanties. narora08@gmail.com

Rashmi Attri is Associate Professor, English, AMU, India, where she has been working for the last fifteen years. Her M.Phil and Ph.D. were on W.B. Yeats’ plays. She also holds PGCTE (Post Graduate certificate in the teaching of English) from EFLU, Hyderabad, India. Her areas of interest include African Literature in English, Indian English writing, Irish literature, Afro-American literature, Modern British Drama, ELT, Indian Aesthetics, Film studies etc. Presently she is working on Dalit Writings of India and Ecocriticism. She teaches Theories in second language learning methodologies, Communicative English, Indian and African fiction in English, Modern British Drama, and English for Business. She has presented papers at national and international conferences, and in the US, and has published papers in several journals. rashmiatttri@gmail.com

Drishadwati Bargi, having completed a Master’s degree in English Literature from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, joined The School Of Women’s Studies as an M.Phil student. She submitted a dissertation entitled ‘The Dalit Woman’s Body: Representation, Subject Formation and Resistance’ grounding her argument on Bengali novels. She has presented papers at national conferences held at TISS Mumbai, NEHU, Shillong and one international conference at York University, Toronto. Her papers dealt with the question of the representation of dalit men in Bollywood, the possibility of an autonomous dalit identity in West Bengal, the role of memory in dalit women’s lives and the question of methodology in contemporary dalit studies. In the future, she wants to look at two aspects of caste and dalit identity: one is the relationship between Caste and Spatiality and another is the relationship between Caste and Culture. drishadwatibargi@gmail.com

Chandrani Chatterjee is Assistant Professor, Department of English, Savitribai Phule Pune University, India. She teaches English at the Department of English, SP Pune University. She has a B.A. and M.A. from the Department of English, Jadavpur University and a Ph.D. from the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT, Bombay. She was awarded the Fulbright-Nehru fellowship in 2012 to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA. Some of her research interests include Translation Studies, Comparative Literature, Gender Studies, Renaissance and Shakespeare Studies and History of the Book. chandrani@unipune.ac.in

Jayan K. Cherian, born in Kerala, India, graduated with honors from Hunter College, BA in Film and Creative Writing and an MFA from The City College of New York in filmmaking. Papilio Buddha (2013) is his debut feature film and he made several experimental documentaries and narrative shorts such as: Shape of the Shapeless (2010), Love in the Time of Foreclosure (2009), Hidden Things (2009), Soul of Solomon (2008), Capturing the Signs of God (2008), Holy Mass (2007), Tree of Life (2007), Simulacra the Reality of the Unreal (2007), The Inner Silence of the Tumult (2007), Hid-entity (2007), and Tandava the Dance of Dissolution (2006). His films were screened at Berlin International Film Festival, BFI London Lesbian Gay Film Festival, Montreal World Film festival and other major festivals around the globe. Won several awards such as: Kerala State Film Special Jury Award for best direction, Kerala Film critics Association Award for Best debut Director. Silver Conch award at Mumbai International Documentary Film (MIFF), Silver Jury prize in San Francisco Shorts, Directors’ Choice Award in Black Maria Film Festival and Honorable Mentions at Athens International Film and Video Festival. He has also published four award-winning volumes of poetry. jayankc@aol.com

Asis De is Assistant Professor of English Language and Literature in the Department of English, Mahishadal Raj College (Govt. Sponsored Post Grad College), Mahishadal, West Bengal, India. His M. Phil dissertation was on the search for home and identity in V.S. Naipaul’s fiction. His PhD dissertation (recently submitted in Jadavpur University, Kolkata) concentrates on the study of Identity negotiation in newer/ diasporic cultural spaces with particular reference to the fiction of Amitav Ghosh and Ben Okri. In a number of publications (Orient Blackswan and Atlantic mainly) and conference presentations in India and in Europe (Belgium, Germany and England), he has worked on the issue of cultural identity and transnationalism in Asian, Caribbean and African fictional narratives. Presently his research interest also includes Indian Dalit and Tribal literatures in translation. He also teaches Anglophone Postcolonial Literatures, Cultural Studies and Diasporic Literatures in two Universities in India as Guest Faculty. He is a member of some eminent research organizations like Postcolonial Studies Association (UK), GAPS (Germany), EACLALS and IACLALS. ademrc@gmail.com

Epsita Halder is Assistant Professor, Department of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India. She works on the Karbala narrative traditions in relation to Muslim modernity and nationhood in late 19th and early 20th century Bengal as her PhD thesis. She was awarded the Charles-Wallace Trust Fellowship in 2011. She has worked on the Muharram traditions of West Bengal with the Art Research Documentation Grant of India Foundation for the Art, Bangalore in 2011-2013. Her research interests include Islam in Bengal, Performance Studies, History of Art, Cultural Studies and History of the Book. epsita.halder@gmail.com

Gopika Jadeja is a graduate research student with the South Asian Studies Programme at the National University of Singapore. Gopika edits and publishes a print journal and a series of pamphlets for Five Issues, a performance-publishing project. Gopika’s translations of poetry as well as her poetry have been published in various journals and magazines. A recipient of the Charles Wallace Scholarship for Creative Writing, she has published a chapbook of poems in collaboration with Visthar-Bangalore. She is currently working on a project of English translations of poetry from Gujarat and a collection of her (for lack of a better phrase) own poetry. gopikajadeja@gmail.com

Aniket Jaaware has been teaching English at the Savitribai Phule Pune University since 1993. His publications include ‘Simplifications: An Introduction to Structuralism and Poststructuralism; (Orient Blackswan 2009 reprint), ‘Neon Fish in Dark Water (MapinLit 2007), an edition of Hamlet for Pearson Longman), and some translations from English and Marathi. aniket.jaaware@gmail.com

Prof. Ashalata Kamble, an activist and well known writer, works as a lecturer in Pendharkar College, Mumbai. She has several books to her credit like Bahinabainchi Kavitta: Ek Aakalan (second edition), Samarth Striyancha Itihas, Yashodharechi Lek (Poetry), Aamchi Aai, Pravas Aamha Doghancha. She has won several awards for her work like the Dr. Ambedkar International award from Canada, Prabhakar Padhye critics award from Konkan Sahitya Parishad, Maharashtra, Wamandada Kardak award from Darpan Sanskrutik Manch, Kankavli, Savitribai Phule-Fatima Sheikh award, Mahila Kasturi Bhushan Award from Dainik Pudhari. She has delivered lectures on feminism as well as Savitribai Phule, Bahinabai Choudhari and Therigatha. The National Blind Association (NAB) translated the books into audio recordings – Bhinabainchi kavita: ek aakalan and Samarth Striyancha Itihas. Some poems from Yashodhrechi Lek have been included for the study of M.A.Marathi, Mumbai University. k.ashalata@yahoo.co.in

Shivani Kapoor is a research scholar, pursuing her PhD at the Center for Political Studies (CPS), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, India. Her research examines the relationship of caste and untouchability with the leather industry in Uttar Pradesh, India, primarily through a sensory and phenomenological focus. Her M.Phil was on the question of self and untouchability in Hindi Dalit autobiographical narratives. Her larger interest areas lie at the intersections of sensory history and anthropology, caste, gender, marginality, writing the self and questions of social justice. She has previously taught Political Science at Lady Shri Ram College (LSR), University of Delhi. shivani27@gmail.com

Kiran Keshavamurthy finished his PhD on gender and sexuality in modern Tamil literature from the department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at University of California, Berkeley. He is currently Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta. His interests include gender and sexuality studies, caste studies and modern Indian literature. His publications include, ‘Tanjai Prakash: Between Desire and Politics’ (forthcoming, December 2015, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla), ‘Gender, Sexuality and Caste in Tamil Literature’ (Vidayasagar University Journal, March 2015). kkmurthy2005@gmail.com

Chhaya Koregaonkar is an eminent poetess in Marathi literature, hails from Mumbai and was born in 1958 in a Dalit family in Maharashtra.  After completing graduation, she worked in a government bank for the last 30 years. Chhaya had started writing poetry when she was thirteen and has two poetry books published namely “Aakaant priya maazaa” (I love my outcry) and “Ek awakaash maazahi” (my space) in Marathi. Woman’s emotional world, her day to day struggle for living and woman’s sexploitation within family and society are the main concerns of her poetry. She is known as a feminist poetess in the literary movement. She also likes to write stories and critical material on all types of literature in Marathi. Chhaya is also active in the social movement particularly relating to the dalit as well as the women’s movement for the last 25 years. She considers Dr. Babasaheb  Ambedkar as her idol, teacher, path finder and his teachings had a great impact on her. She advocates for gender equality and woman-power through her writings. chhayabkbob@gmail.com

Lissa Lincoln is Associate Professor of Gender Studies and Comparative Literature at the American University of Paris and Director of the Gender, Sexuality and Society Program. Her research interests can be divided into three interrelated valences: the work and thought of Albert Camus, the interdisciplinary field of law and literature, and the problems articulated in contemporary ‘global’ feminism and feminist theory. Her current research projects include an examination of law’s rapport with literature through the philosophical frameworks of French contemporary philosophers Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, particularly as played out in the interrelationship between judgment, power and morality. lissalincoln@gmail.com

Mukta Mahajan is presently working as Professor in the Dept. of English, School of Language Studies and Research Centre, North Maharashtra University, Jalgaon (M.S.) India. Her research area is Comparative Study of Literature and Translation Studies. She has three books to her credit- Ernest Hemingway: An Author Study and Prose Style. Her third book Globalization, Indian Spiritualism and Saint Poets is the result of her MRP sanctioned by UGC, New Delhi. She is a professional translator. She has translated and written scripts for AIR, Jalgaon. She has completed one translation for Sahitya Akademi, Mumbai. She has presented her papers in International conferences at USA. U.K. Romania, Malaysia, Italy, Austria, Sri Lanka and also in India. muktamahajan64@gmail.com

Padmini Mongia teaches literature in English at Franklin and Marshall College, English Department, Franklin & Marshall College, Pennsylvania, USA. She has edited Contemporary Postcolonial Theory for Arnold (and OUP) and has published numerous articles on Conrad as well as on contemporary Indian Writing in English.  Currently, she is working on popular ‘pulp’ fiction written in English from India. padmini.mongia@fandm.edu

Nalini Pai is presently Assistant Professor at St Joseph’s College of Arts and Science, Bangalore, India. Her teaching focuses on British literature both before as well as after 1900. Her research interests include Indian writing in English, Cultural Studies as well as, more recently, Indian Literatures in Translation. She has published papers covering areas such as English Language Teaching, Dalit literature and Translation and Film stars and Politics. Her interests are special education, creative writing and film studies. npai513@gmail.com

Maya Pandit Narkar is a professor at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad and combines three disciplines in her academic and cultural work spread over 35 years. A Translation Studies scholar, she worked on the nineteenth century Marathi translations for her doctoral thesis and has produced more than 16 major works of translation from Marathi in to English and some from English into Marathi.  As a Feminist Studies scholar, she has published extensively on women’s writing and produced a documentary film Voices from the Margins on Marathi dalit women writers.  She was a Charles Wallace scholar at University of East Anglia. As an activist in women’s movement and experimental and street theatre, she worked extensively on issues of women, caste and class oppression. As an ELT scholar she has published many books on communicative English and teacher development programmes. Her publications include Gopal Ganesh Agarkar and Adventures with Grammar apart from many research papers in books and journals. She has participated in many international conferences and workshops in several countries. mayapandit@gmail.com

Urmila Pawar was born in the small village in Ratnagiri as the youngest child of a Dalit family. She learned early in life the meaning of her subordination as a woman and as a Dalit. A prolific writer, her ten books published include three Short Story Collections; selected stories were translated into English as Mother Wit by Prof. Veena Deo of Hamline University USA. She has won many prestigious prizes for her sensitive exploration of the lives of Dalit women in India. Her Autobiography Aydaan is a part of Syllabus of the University of Columbia (USA) from 2009 and was translated into English, Hindi and Kannada. Recently AAYDAN has been adapted for a Marathi play by legendry Marathi play director Sushma Deshpande and is also in the process of being adapted in Hindi and English as well. “AAYDAN” still continues to touch the heart of all lovers of Marathi literature. Pawar.urmila@yahoo.com

Chandra Sekharis a Ph.D scholar in the Department of Cultural Studies at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. He has an M.Phil degree in Cultural Studies from the same university. For his M.Phil thesis he worked on Dalit Caste Panchayats in Andhra Pradesh under the supervision of Prof. Maya Pandit Narkar. At present he is doing his research under the supervision of Prof. K.Satyanarayana, on Dalits Conversion into Christianity in Colonial Rayalaseema. Rayalaseema is one of the backward regions in Andhra Pradesh. He presented a paper in a national seminar, titled Representation of Prostitutes and Prostitution in Recent Telugu Cinema and presented a paper in an international conference, with the title of Representation of Conversion in Telugu Literature. His areas of interest include Dalit Literature, Feminism, Films study, and literary theory. He is keen to learn new languages be they Indian or Foreign. chandueflu@gmail.com

Shoma Sen is currently teaching at the Department of English, Rashtrasant Tukdoji Maharaj University, Nagpur, India as an Associate Professor. Her areas of interest are Feminism, Gender Studies and Human Rights. She has published research papers and spoken at various platforms on related issues. She was invited as the Keynote speaker by Asia Pacific Research Network for an International Seminar, “Women Resisting Crisis and War” in the Philippines in 2010. She read a paper on “Women, Development and Displacement at a National Seminar organized by the Forum for Inclusive Growth, New Delhi, October 10, 2010, on “Subaltern Women’s Writing” at International Conference in Mumbai in October 2012 and on “Neo-Imperialism in Selected essays of Arundhati Roy” at an International conference at EFL-U, Hyderabad in Jan 2013. Shoma has also participated in civil society investigations on violations of human rights and in people’s tribunals. She has edited a magazine in English and Hindi related to the women’s movement in India. shomasen@hotmail.com

Bijaya Kumar Sethi is currently a Doctoral Research Scholar in English at IIT Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India, with a special interest in marginalized literatures such as Dalit Literature and Literatures from the Northeast India. Dalit Aesthetics is the focus of the doctoral thesis. Dalit literature as a new literary genre has been frequently rejected by the mainstream literary critics. According to the mainstream literary critics, Dalit literature is historical, sociological and does not have literary beauty, because it deals only with the caste exploitation. The endeavor in this doctoral thesis will be to explore the aesthetic elements in Dalit literature which are different from the aesthetic norms of traditional established aesthetic norms. The study goes through a systematic analysis of select Dalit autobiographical narratives to expore and establish the aesthetic aspects of Dalit literature. bijaykumarsethi1@gmail.com

Vinod Verma is Associate Professor, Department of English, Maharaja Agrasen College, University of Delhi, India. He was born in 1962 in a Chhippa hand-block printing community, was a school drop-out when 10 years old and a child-labourer for seven years. He passionately pursued studies when 17 years old, starting with alphabets of English and earning an M.Phil. in English Literature. He has been associated with MAC, University of Delhi, English Department, since 2001 as Associate Professor. Between 1992 and 2000 he ran an NGO for socially and economically under-privileged children’s education. Co-editor of DU textbooks The Individual & Society and Living Literatures, he has researched Dalit writings and Bhakti/Mukti Literature in Indian vernaculars for the last ten years and shared it in conferences held in Indian and UK universities. His published works include critical papers on Dalit Literature, Kabir, poetry, drawings, book cover designs, digital paintings, photographs and films. He also conducts workshops on Dalit Arts, Visual Design, Film Appreciation, Performing Arts and Photography & Film-Making. vinodkvverma@yahoo.com

Kanak Yadav is a research scholar at the Centre for English Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. She has completed her M.Phil. dissertation titled, ‘Serious Men and The Gypsy Goddess: How Newness Enters the Dalit Discourse’ in 2015. She graduated from Kirorimal College, University of Delhi, India and completed her Masters in English from the Centre for English Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. Her areas of interest are Dalit Literature, Indian Writing in English, Translation Theory and Practice, and Postcolonial Studies. kanak2408@gmail.com