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Vaccumizing the Dalit Identity: Upper-caste Writers and the Bubble of Representation in Indian Novel

Uday Khanna

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



The novels by upper-caste writers under the garb of genuine and heartfelt representation of the oppressed classes has often led to the negation of the Dalit identity with a discourse of pity, sympathy and sacrifice under the lieu of furthering the Dalit cause. Self-sacrifice and death become large symbols around which these writers build their stories as they continue to portray them giving up their lives, denying any chances of dynamism in their characters. This paper aims to analyse Choma’s Drums by Shivaram Karanth and Untouchable by Mulk Raj, with references to other works, through the lens of close reading, in order to gauge the authenticity of their portraiture and the sincerity of the depiction of the Dalit lives and experience which has grounded the discourse around Dalit representation in elements of pity, giving off the impression of appropriation and what Sambashiva Rao called “a tactical trick,” where Brahmins would put themselves in a position to represent a Dalit character without critiquing the system, and portraying themselves as allies, and confining the discourse to "compassion" and "sorrow." The paper endeavours to critique and problematize such representations which take the discourse back by years instead of advancing it.

KEYWORDS: Vaccumization, dynamism, identity, appropriation, unidimensional, caste politics

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