17 May 2019
Neerav Patel, a pioneering Gujarati Dalit poet, passed away on 15 May, 2019. A bi-lingual poet, he wrote in English and Gujarati. During the last few days of his life he fought the cancer with the same indomitable spirit that imbues his poetry. From mid-December 2018, when the cancer did not let him sleep, he wrote a poem almost everyday and posted it on his social media page. A total of 68 poems. When he could not speak he kept a notebook and pen, communicating with his many visitors – friends and well-wishers – through notes.
Patel’s was a significant voice not just in Gujarati poetry but also in Indian poetry. His words captured the pain and experience of the material life of Dalit communities. He was one of the most widely read and translated of Gujarati poets. His poetry has been translated into several Indian languages as well as English and German. Though Dalit poetry remains marginalised in the Gujarati literary sphere, Neerav Patel was widely published and celebrated. In the past few years his poetry appeared in most of the major Gujarati magazines, literary and otherwise – Parab, Shabda Shrushti, Nireekshak, Naya Marg and Navneet Samarpan.
Deeply committed to the cause of Dalit literature, Patel was closely associated with the Dalit Panthers of Gujarat (inspired by the Dalit Panthers in Maharashtra, especially the poet Raja Dhale). He was one of the founding editors along with Dalpat Chauhan, Yogesh Dave and Pravin Gadhvi of the first Dalit literary magazine, Aakrosh (1978), published by the Dalit Panthers. His poem on the Jetalpur burning, when a young Dalit man named Shakrabhai Premabhai was burnt alive on the allegation of theft in the village of Jetalpur on 26 December, 1980, is a searing critique of caste hierarchies and a bold political statement. Patel calls it a ‘report poem’. Indeed, for Patel the subject matter of poetry could not be separated from the stark social and political realities of everyday life for Dalit communities.
As Deeptha Achar says, he was one of the first Dalit poets to make a conscious choice of writing in English. His first two collections of poetry, Burning at both ends and What did I do to be so black and blue were written in English and published by the Dalit Panthers of Gujarat in the 1980s. Very few Dalit writers even today choose to write in English, and when young Dalit poet Chandramohan began writing Dalit poetry in English, he found he had no mentors. He says, “I used to feel so orphaned that most of them wrote in their native tongues and didn’t possess enough command over English to read and critique poetry written in English and have a fruitful conversation on the nuances of a cultural text conceived in English. He was one of the few Dalit writers well-versed in English; this helped me in sustaining a conversation with him.” Always unflinching in his commitment to the cause of Dalit Literature, Patel advised Chandramohan to stay away from the media and limelight, read voraciously and hone his craft. This is a dictum he followed himself. He read widely and deeply. In his writing and conversation he would refer just as easily to Sarte as to Ambedkar, to Sisyphus as to Shambhuka, to Paul Robeson as to Baburao Bagul.
Patel’s commitment to Dalit literature is evident in his work with various Dalit literary organisations, publishing books and magazines, conducting workshops and other programmes. As an editor he was prolific. He edited several literary magazines in succession, even editing of the first anthologies of Gujarati Dalit poetry published by the Sahitya Akademi. Not only was he devoted to Dalit poetry, as an editor he sought to contextualise it, including interviews, sociological and other scholarly essays.
A bank officer for most of his working life, Patel was never at ease in the upper caste, middle class staidness it represented. In a preface to his collected poems, he says that the word poetry is ‘misleading’ (chetraamno). Misleading because for him poetry is not about the familiar, romantic tropes of traditional Gujarati poetry. It cannot be. His poetry does not please, or entertain. As he says, writing poetry gives him pain and he wishes that the reader not be just a reader but a ‘hamdard’ (someone who empathises). Neerav Patel has opened our world and made us all ‘hamdard’.
by Gopika Jadeja
2 February 2019
Please support the planned twitter storm on Monday, 4 February, 8pm-10pm IST, for those who are in jail in the Bhima Koregaon case, including our network member Shoma Sen. They have received little coverage, so please share the details of this event and participate if you are on Twitter: #FreeKoregaon9.
See also this article for relevant information:
21 January 2019
Please consider signing this petition in support of Prof. Anand Teltumbde: https://www.change.org/p/prime-minister-narendra-modi-quash-the-false-fir-and-not-to-arrest-professor-dr-anand-teltumbde-65826336-d1a2-44f0-84a9-2eb95e6f5211
See these articles for further information:
12 December 2018
The South Asian Diaspora Arts Archive’s project involves the digitisation of documents that they hold on Lakshmi Holmström. Some of these are now available online and include letters from Bama and the first few handwritten pages of her translation of Karukku. Here is the link: https://sadaa.co.uk/archive/literature/lakshmi-holmstrom-mbe
We are pleased to announce the Indian edition of Mudnakudu Chinnaswami’s poetry collection Before It Rains Again, published by Yoda press (http://yodapress.co.in/).
10 December 2018
Call for papers of the interdisciplinary and international conference ‘Caste, Gender and Race: A Politics of Hegemony’ on 21- 23 February 2019.
The conference is held at and organised by the Department of English, Faculty of Humanities, RTM Nagpur University, India.
It could be possible to assume that mankind, like any other biological species, has evolved from Homo Sapiens who then developed into different racial groups in the biosphere. But mankind need not be differentiated on the ground of superiority of the self over the Other in human civilization. Humankind should be treated as single species among other non-human species. However, over the thousands of years humans have evolved into different races and developed a sense of superiority. This sense of superiority has divided entire mankind into the centre and the periphery supporting the dominance of the self as an outcome of the politics of hegemony. It is this politics of hegemony that invariably demoralizes the spirit of resistance in the Other with a view to sustaining and maintaining its own mechanism of everlasting supremacy in the human world.
Of course, the human world has witnessed some of the moments to respect the ‘equality of all’ so that the distinction and differentiation between the self and the Other is controlled to represent a better human world. But apart from such moments supporting the ‘equality of all’ the dominance of the self over the rest of the Other persists in the man-made phenomenon like forms of caste, gender and race. This distinction within and between various caste, gender and race engendered more fissures than sutures. Is it the politics of power that decides the nature of unequal human relationship? Is it because of such politics of hegemony that human association between the self and the Other is fissured? Literary perception never fails to voice such issues in the interest of human society. We believe, it is a primary responsibility of the faculty in University Education to take a note of such issues in literary and social canon to shed some light on the fissures in human relations. This three-day conference therefore intends to invite the attention of scholars in the faculty of humanities and social sciences to identify the logic behind the fissures in human relations to expose the politics of hegemony (being played) by the self against the Other in religious, legal, political, philosophical, economic and cultural spheres.
The organisers invite proposals of no more than 250 words for twenty-minute papers. Please also include a brief biographical sketch of up to 50 words. The deadline for submission of abstract is 31 December 2018.
4 December 2018
We share the sad, sad news that Aniket Jaaware has just passed. He died of a heart attack near his home in Delhi.
He had been associated with the Network for several years and his demise brings back all the memories of him in Pune, when he hosted and co-organised the conference there in 2016, and also in Montpellier when he had been invited to give a keynote at the conference in 2014, at a time when he was a Fellow at IIAS.
His demise is a huge loss for all of us. His new book Practicing Caste: On touching and Not Touching – Commonalities has just been released.
He certainly was a living proof that one can be a brilliant intellectual and writer, and be totally devoid of any arrogance, he was so soft-spoken and sweet in his relations with people. He is already sorely missed.
30 August 2018
It is with utter dismay and in a state of shock that we have been watching the recent developments on the political scene in India. Even if the crackdown on Dalits and Adivasis has been going on for many weeks now, months even, organising the arrests and raiding the homes of intellectuals and activists under the pretext of chasing Maoists and ‘urban Naxalites’ is definitely reaching an unprecedented new peak in the repression of dissent.
The feeling of helplessness on our side of the Indian Ocean is palpable but we want to express our radical condemnation of such actions, and our complete support to our friends who have been harassed, molested, humiliated and sometimes arrested. We have been recognizing people we know, friends, on the videos and we want to express our support and feelings of close solidarity.
It’s nowhere in the Western press, India is still being hailed as the biggest democracy in the world, and when there are headlines about India it’s about demonetisation. It is part of our responsibility to alert people here that there is much more to the Indian political and intellectual scene than what is being shown here.
Judith and Nicole
7 April 2018
Nottingham Trent University: ‘Changing Wor(l)ds Through Dalit Literature’ on 13th April 2018
This inaugural event of the Changing Wor(l)ds network will be an interactive workshop bringing together a select group of industry professionals such as publishers, book sellers, cultural activists, writers, translators and scholars. Changing Wor(l)ds is intended to explore particular social issues and the impact that writing can have as a contribution to cultural activism. For this inaugural event, the focus will be on Dalit literature and its relationship to Dalit activism. We are delighted that Dalit feminist author Kalyani Thakur and professional translator Sipra Mukherjee will be joining us from Bengal specially for this event. This event is by invitation only.
Poetry Reading: Dalit Feminist Poet Kalyani Thakur at the Boots Library, 13th April
All are warmly invited to join us for poetry reading at the Boots library on Friday 13th April, 16:45-18:00, in BTS329. The event will showcase the work of Kalyani Thakur, who will be joining us along with professional translator Prof. Sipra Mukherjee. Kalyani’s poetry will be read in its original Bengali and in English translation. For those who don’t understand Bengali, this is a unique opportunity to experience the rhythm and evocative power of the poetry alongside a linguistic interpretation. The readings will be followed by time for questions and discussion.
Kalyani Thakur is a Dalit poet from West Bengal. She considers herself a Dalit activist and has written extensively about the humiliation faced by her community. She has published four books of poetry in Bengali, a collection of short stories and a collection of essays.
Sipra Mukherjee is a professional translator and Professor in the department of English, West Bengal State University. Her research interests are religion, caste and power. She has published with Brill, Oxford University Press, McGill Queen’s University Press, SAGE, Sahitya Akademi, Ravi Dayal, Routledge and Permanent Black. Sipra will also read from her translation of Manoranjan Byapari’s autobiography Interrogating My Chandal Life, which was recently published by Sage/Samya.
Translating Activism: A Cross-Cultural Writing Workshop with Dalit Author Kalyani Thakur: Nottingham Contemporary 12:00-16:00, Saturday 14th April. The workshop is free but booking is essential as places are strictly limited. To book a place, please visit http://www.nottinghamcontemporary.org/event/translating-activism.
The events received coverage in The Times Higher Education https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/bringing-dalit-voice-poor-indian-universities , BBC Radio Nottingham https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p063hryj and the Magazine LeftLion https://www.leftlion.co.uk/read/2018/may/translating_activism/
22 September 2017
Network Publication: Special Issue on Dalit Literature in the Journal of Commonwealth Literature
We are very pleased to announce that all articles and the editorial of a special issue on Dalit literature in the Journal of Commonwealth Literature have appeared as online articles on the journal’s Online First site. The editorial can be accessed for free; the other pieces can only be accessed via institutional membership. This is the first special issue on Dalit literature in a major journal and all articles are based on papers and talks at the network events that we organised between 2014 and 2016. The journal is co-edited by Judith Misrahi-Barak, K. Satyanarayana and Nicole Thiara and we would like to thank all of the special issue’s contributors for their hard work.
Please help us publicise the special issue before its publication as a regular issue of the journal in 2019 by circulating this information widely.
List of Contents:
Nicole Thiara and Judith Misrahi-Barak
Editorial: Why Should We Read Dalit Literature?
The Political and Aesthetic Significance of Contemporary Dalit Literature
Narrating Dalit Womanhood and the Aesthetics of Autobiography
The Village and the City: Dalit Feminism in the Autobiographies of Baby Kamble and Urmila Pawar
Tracking Obscenities: Dalit Women, Devadasis, and the Linguistically Sexual
Postmodernism and Politics in Meena Kandasamy’s The Gypsy Goddess
Literary Criticism as a Critique of Caste: Ayothee Thass and the Tamil Buddhist Past
Judith Misrahi-Barak and Nicole Thiara
Interview with Director Jayan K. Cherian
Mudnakudu Chinnaswamy and Rowena Hill
Poet and Translator: A Dialogue between Mudnakudu Chinnaswamy and Rowena Hill
26 July 2017
Dalit Studies conference at CSDS, Delhi on 22-24 January 2018:
3 March 2017
We are very pleased to announce that Mudnakudu Chinnaswamy will launch his book of poetry Before It Rains Again at the British Library in Bengaluru on 10 March at 6pm. The event is hosted by the British Council and the trust Mudnakudu Chinnaswamy Academy of Buddhist Sciences and also inaugurates the trust.
Judith and I have known Mudnakudy Chinnaswamy since he read his poetry in Kannada at our network’s conference on Dalit literature and translation at UEA in 2015 where Rowena Hill read the English versions of his poems that she had translated. This was one of the most memorable moments of this conference with many highlights. We were also lucky that Chinnaswamy read his poetry again in Nottingham both at Nottingham Trent University and at the public venue The Wire café in May 2016. These encounters introduced Chinnaswamy to the Liverpool-based publisher Erbacce Press, which published this wonderful collection of poetry. In order to purchase a copy, please go to: http://erbacce-press.webeden.co.uk/#/mudnakudu-chinnaswamy/4593563933. Negotiations with an Indian distributor are on their way.
This is the first publication which emerged from the events organised by our network and is a great example of the way in which it brings people together and we hope that you will support it.
6 February 2017
As part of the Postcolonial Speakers Series of Nottingham Trent University’s Postcolonial Studies Centre, we present Gopika Jadeja, PhD candidate, National University of Singapore and King’s College, London:
You keep the cow’s tail: The Dalit Movement and Dalit Poetry in Gujarat
Around the world today governments and regimes are creating what Gyan Pandey calls a ‘monolingual order’, which does not recognise any other idea of nation and sovereignty except the one it ascribes to. This alienates and denies participation in the nation to marginalised communities excluding them from cultural citizenship leading to contestations of identity within the nation. I examine this through a study of the literary sphere in the western Indian state of Gujarat. I suggest that interactions in the literary sphere reveal, and become a site for, contestations of identity and of idea of the nation.
I present dalit literature in Gujarat as a challenge to the creation of monolithic and exclusive Gujarati asmita (identity and pride) suggesting a plurality of identities and what it means to be ‘Gujarati’. I achieve this by tracing the historical trajectory of modern Gujarati literature as a backdrop in literary and social history against which Dalit poetry in Gujarat emerged, while focusing also on the dalit movement in Gujarat.
Besides poetic texts and archival material from the dalit movement, I draw from the slogans (eg. ‘You keep the cow’s tail, give us our land’) and speeches from recent dalit protests in Gujarat. Combining literary analysis and historiography with the study of a socio-political movement, I bring to the fore an alternative literary history that plays a role in the assertion of a plurality of identities challenging the monolingual order of the region and by extension the nation, in particular the nation of ‘Hindutva’.
Wednesday 8th February 2017, 1-2pm, MAE101, Clifton Campus, Nottingham Trent University, UK.
7 November 2016
ESRC Festival of Social Science 2016
22 September 2016
BASAS Annual Conference 2017: Call for Papers
19 – 21 April 2017, University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University
The British Association of South Asian Studies (BASAS) will hold its annual conference from 1:30 pm Wednesday, 19 April, to 12:30 pm Friday, 21 April 2017, at the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University. The conference is hosted by Nottingham University’s Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies (IAPS) and Nottingham Trent University’s Postcolonial Studies Centre. The keynote speaker is Urvashi Butalia, sponsored by IAPS.
We are now accepting panel and paper submissions for the 2017 conference. This year there is no specific theme for the conference – we invite proposals for both panels and independent papers from all humanities, arts, and social science disciplines, covering research on the breadth of South Asia and its diaspora. As always we welcome bold, innovative, and interdisciplinary approaches.
Please submit your panel and paper proposals to the conference organisers at firstname.lastname@example.org by the dates shown below.
Panel proposals (150-200 word abstract). Panels will last for 90 minutes, and it is advisable that proposals allow sufficient time for the presentation of papers as well as discussion.
Independent papers (100-150 word abstract).
Deadline for submission of abstracts: 30 November 2016
Please provide full contact details (mailing and emailing addresses) for your paper and/or for each member of your panel.
Note on panel proposals: Panel proposals are to be accompanied by individual paper abstracts for each of the proposed panel members (100-150 words). The panel organiser(s) should also arrange for a chair (who can be a panellist).
Please note: Incomplete panel proposals will not be accepted. Panel organisers are expected to have confirmed speakers and chair prior to submitting. The conference organisers may seek to add additional individual papers to accepted papers, in discussion with panel organisers.
Funding: There will be a limited number of bursaries to the value of £50 available to students and unwaged participants. Those who wish to be considered for these bursaries should include a covering note in support of their request, detailing any additional institutional support for conference participation for which they may be eligible. This must be submitted by the deadline of 30 November 2016.
Registration will open in January 2017.
Registration deadline: 15 March 2017
Registration fee (up to 15 March 2017): £150 waged (teaching and research staff on salaries); £90 unwaged (students, unemployed, pensioners, academics on hourly paid or sessional contracts). Please note that the delegate rate includes a conference dinner on 20 April, one lunch (on 20 April), a drinks reception, and tea and coffee between sessions.
Advanced registration is strongly encouraged to ensure a place at the conference. Late registrations, after the 15 March deadline, will attract an additional charge, and places may not be guaranteed.
You must be a BASAS member in order to register for the conference. To become a member, visit the BASAS website.
BASAS paper prize for graduate students: An award of £250 will be made for the best paper presented at the Annual Conference. Entries should be no longer than 7000 words and submitted no later than 15 March 2017 to the conference organisers at email@example.com. A panel of judges comprising the conference organisers and council members will make the final decision based on the paper and the presentation. The winning paper may be considered for publication in one of BASAS’s associated journals, Contemporary South Asia or South Asian Studies.
Visas: Delegates requiring visas must register to attend the conference before a visa letter can be issued from the conference organisers. If you require a visa please contact firstname.lastname@example.org including a copy of your registration receipt, which should feature your name and address. Please also note your Nationality and your Passport Number. A personalised PDF Visa letter will be emailed to you promptly.
Professor Katharine Adeney, Dr Onni Gust, Dr Kathryn Lum, Dr Diego Maiorano, Dr Humaira Saeed, Dr Nicole Thiara
Contact e-mail: email@example.com
20 September 2016
The great Dalit Leader and Writer Bojja Tharakam sadly passed away: http://roundtableindia.co.in/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8783:bojja-tharakam-1939-2016-i-think-of-myself-as-both-an-ambedkarite-and-a-marxist&catid=119:feature&Itemid=132.
12 July 2016
We would like to announce the launch of our network’s YouTube channel DALIT VOICE AND VISION.
This channel was initially set up to cover the events, conferences and activities of the network. In the future, we aim to focus on recording interviews, digital autobiographies and performances by Dalit writers, artists and people with a story to tell. So, this channel will establish a new branch of the network.
The Executive Board consists of Dr Nicole Thiara, lecturer in English at Nottingham Trent University, UK, and Dr Judith Misrahi-Barak, Associate Professor in English at Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier, France. Production Co-ordinator and Chief Editor is Prof. Vinod Verma, University of Delhi, India. The editor for Europe is the independent editor Zacharie Barak.
Without the input, creativity and hard work of Prof. Vinod Verma, this channel would not exist. So we would like to thank Vinod and also our editor in Europe, Zacharie.
If you would like to get involved or suggest material for uploading, please contact Nicole (Nicole.Thiara@ntu.ac.uk) and Vinod (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Please note that not all sessions at the conferences were recorded and not all recordings were of a technical standard that made them suitable for uploading. We apologise to those whose sessions were not recorded.
Please register on the Youtube channel to be kept updated of any new video that will be posted.
14 June 2016
Lakshmi Holmstrӧm passed away on 6 May 2016 and we would like to express our deep sadness and extend our condolences to her family and friends. Lakshmi translated poetry and prose, mainly from Tamil into English, and her excellent translations of Bama’s work have been of huge significance in the field of Dalit literary studies. She spoke at the first conference the network organised at Nottingham Trent University in June 2014 and had been a great supporter of the network from the beginning. In many ways, she was greatly influential in helping to conceive of the network and as a colleague and friend she will be terribly missed.
10 May 2016
We have now started a publications page as part of this website, which lists relevant publications to the study of Dalit literature. The publications and films listed here have been kindly compiled by Judith Misrahi-Barak originally. If you would like us to add further titles and films, please send us the references following the referencing system used on the webpage.
31 March 2016
We are launching this website dedicated to the study of Dalit literature at a time when the violence against Dalit students, academic staff and activists is highly visible in the international media.This research network seeks to provide a platform for researchers of Dalit literature within and outside of academia and strengthen links between Dalit writers and their publishers with their international audiences. If you would like to get involved, please contact Nicole Thiara and Judith Misrahi-Barak.