Dalit feminist thought

Authored by: Shailaja Paik

Routledge Handbook of Gender in South Asia

Print publication date:  November  2021
Online publication date:  November  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367479657
eBook ISBN: 9781003043102
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter focuses on Dalit (“Untouchable”) women’s experiences as epistemic spaces to create a new conceptual and theoretical framework of a Dalit “womanist-humanist complex,” to analyze the materiality of caste, class, gender, sexuality, local economy, and power relationships, both within and outside of the Dalit community. The chapter illuminates how Dalits navigate awkward contingencies, tenuous histories, socioeconomic contexts, political pressures, and cultural realities to negotiate with regimes of power, carve their agency, and contribute to feminist thought, praxis, pedagogies, and politics. The chapter demonstrates the myriad ways through which Dalits have expanded, challenged, and revolutionized feminism. The questions are asked: Who is a Dalit feminist? What does feminism, womanhood, and gender look like from the vantage point of Dalit women, that is, women who are most tyrannized by caste and sexist oppression and beaten down mentally, spiritually, and physically? What are the specific contours of feminist consciousness from the perspective of Dalit women who are not considered “women” or measure up to the benchmarks of the “human”? The chapter engages these questions, by centering Dalits’ lived experiences under excess discrimination, hurt, and humiliation, and work on different potentials, hopes, and futures.

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