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A Language of One’s Own: The Politics of the Body, Language and Identity in Sukirtharani’s Poetry

B. Mangalam

All About Ambedkar: A Journal on Theory and Praxis, Volume 2, Number 2 | Full Text PDF



The twin oppressive structures of caste and patriarchy are foregrounded in the poetry of Sukirtharani. The six volumes of her poetry posit a critique of violence, containment and marginalization of Dalits, women, refugees in our contemporary society. Drawing upon myths, parables and social stereotyping, Sukirtharani denounces imposed hierarchies and division of experience on gendered, casteist lines. Interrogating binaries in spatial, poetic, aesthetic norms, Sukirtharani’s poetry seeks to transcend received tradition to evolve a fresh, dynamic matrix in terms of form and content, image and language. This paper, briefly, traces Tamil poetics and contemporary literary discourse to locate Sukirtharani’s poetry as transgressive and innovative. A close analysis of her poems reveals the radical standpoint of Dalit literary discourse in Tamil and highlights (in English translation) how she re-configures language to capture the close affinity between land, nature, woman’s body and the common patterns of oppression. Evolving a poetic language that is embedded on a woman’s corporeality and consciousness, Sukirtharani engages with body-politics, caste hegemony and traditional poetics.

KEYWORDS: Dalit women, body-politics, marginalization, language, violence, caste hegemony



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