Party Political Panthers: Hegemonic Tamil Politics and the Dalit Challenge

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The Viduthalai Ciruthaigal Katchi (VCK, Liberation Panther Party) has successfully transformed from the largest Dalit movement in Tamil Nadu into a recognised political organisation. Social movement theorists like Gamson (1990) view political recognition and engagement as one of the main aims and successes of social mobilisation. Despite the obvious achievements of the VCK, however, activists and commentators express disappointment or disillusionment with its performance. The Panthers clearly reject the caste hierarchy, but they increasingly adopt hegemonic forms of politics which can undermine their aims. This paper, thus, engages with the questions of movement institutionalisation by tracing the political trajectory of the VCK and charting its resistance to and compliance with Dravidian hegemony. It argues that institutionalisation needs to be understood within particular socio-political contexts and notes how the hegemony of Dravidian politics partly explains the disjuncture between activist and political perceptions. It portrays how the dominant political parties have set the template for what it means to ‘do’ politics in Tamil Nadu which serves as both an opportunity and a constraint for potential challengers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalSouth Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal (SAMAJ)
Early online date30 Dec 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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