Reinventing Dalit Women's Identity? Dynamics of Social Activism and Electoral Politics in Rural North India

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Abstract

Dalit or ex-untouchable women's voices and perspectives have been marginalized not only in Dalit movements but also in predominantly upper-caste Hindu-led women's movements. This paper aims at exploring the unheard voices and perspectives of Dalit women in the context of Dalit assertion in the state of Uttar Pradesh, north India. Scholarly writing examines the different facets of Dalit political assertion led by the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh. Few scholars, however, examine the ways in which individual and organizational actors engage with women of Dalit castes through social activism in the state. This paper is an attempt to do so. Specifically, it examines, with special reference to issues of culture and identity, the engagement of a grassroots women's non-governmental organization with rural Dalit women in southern Uttar Pradesh. The paper begins with an enquiry into why engagement with issues of culture and identity is necessary for social activism with Dalit women, and how it is carried out. It then examines whether social activism and electoral politics with Dalit women cross-cut each other, and also what implications this or its lack has for the women. Finally, the paper asks how far activism and politics can go towards re-inventing Dalit (women's) identity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-440
JournalContemporary South Asia
Volume16
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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