Dalit Studies: A Report

Aainanagar

During the past year, many questions have been raised against what goes in the name of stability and harmony in our country. Several issues concerning class, caste, education, labour, gender, environment, food, culture and so on have been questioned and explored, acknowledging the complex ways in which they are interrelated. In particular, caste has never been discussed in such a broad spectrum of forums before; Rohith Vemula’s death has stood out as a milestone in the history of caste struggle. This report is concentrated on the subject of Dalit Studies. But Dalit Studies, as we understand it, is much more than yet another academic field of enquiry. We hope, this brief report would unleash a process of  exchange of thoughts and experiences regarding caste within the Aainanagar fraternity and beyond.

Panuval Bookstore, apart from being a bookstore, is one of the thriving activists’ joints in Chennai. For the last two years, Ambedkar’s birthday (April 14) has been celebrated in this Bookstore through organization of talks, panel discussions, film screenings and other such events based on the issue of caste in India. This year’s focus has been ‘caste in education and academics’, keeping the current scenario in academic institutions like Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and University of Hyderabad (UoH) in mind. Prof. Kusuma Satyanarayana was invited this year at Panuval to talk about this issue on April 23, 2016. Activist V. Geetha—one of the principal driving forces of this annual program—explained in her introductory as well as concluding speeches that the events this year covered a large area of caste related problems in academics that both students and faculties faced. She stated, rather emphatically, that in India, caste forms in decisive ways educational experiences at every stage, and that Satyanarayana’s speech in fact summarized many of these issues under discussion.

Prof. Satyanarayana, apart from being an associate professor in the Department of Cultural Studies, English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad, is a well-known scholar, editor and activist, specializing on Dalit Studies. He has coedited three books on Dalit writings with Susie Tharu and has recently coedited a book titled ‘Dalit Studies’ with Ramnarayan S. Rawat. This book discusses how Indian historiography has been dominated by the anticolonialism/nationalism binary, marginalizing Dalits and any other alternate voices that tried to find its place in the historical research and pedagogy in India. It also discussed the contemporary issues faced by the middle class Dalits to reconcile their class and caste identities. In a way, Satyanarayana’s talk also summarized this book and made it clear that there is no shortcut to understanding the caste issue in India without being aware of its omnipresence in our everyday lives.

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