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Future Contours of A Marginalized Discourse

Manish K. Thakur

Edited by Arun Kumar and Sanjay Kumar
Deshkal Publications, 2005, pp. xxii 146, Rs. 595.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 10 October 2005

Over the last few decades, dalits have been a subject of academic enquiry and research leading to a growing corpus of scholarly writings on them. The abundance of social science literature on various aspects of dalit identity and politics, though, does not mean undisputed respectability, or even recognition, of Dalit Studies as a framing perspectival device for the general anchoring of social scientific enquiries. In fact, as Imtiaz Ahmad notes in his foreword to this slim volume, there remains a considerable gap between the existing literature on dalit communities and an enabling perspective required to integrate that literature into education. No wonder, the well-entrenched stereotypes of dalit life and culture refuse to give way to their balanced and critical assessment. This has also largely to do with the political symbolism embo-died in the conceptual genealogy of the very term dalit. The historical and ideological associations of the term spanning a variety of politically charged mass mobilizations make any attempt at objective under-standing fraught with grave political risks. Expectedly, very often we come across either politically correct rhetoric or academically suspect polemics in the name of Dalit Studies.   Steering clear of any quick-fix solutions to introduce Dalit Studies in the system of higher education, the editors undertake the challenging task of its curricular integration in the well-established disciplinary niches of humanities and social sciences. The present volume is the outcome of their year long deliberations on the future contours of a programme of Dalit Studies. Most of the papers collected here have been read at a series of workshops that the Deshkal Society had organized on the subject. As in any edited volume, the papers are highly uneven in quality, and even in length. Two of the contributions Savyasaachi’s ‘Dalit Studies: Exploring Criteria for a New Discipline’ and Arun Kumar’s ‘Dalit Discourse in the Universities of Bihar’ are by way of summary reports on the seminars and workshops held. Other contributions raise a set of important issues: Should Dalit Studies be a stand-alone programme? Or a mere add-on under the general rubric of humanities and social sciences? Or a perspective seeking to alter the essential constitutive grids of the given systems of knowledge? Some of the more ambitious contributors would like Dalit Studies to intervene in the processes of knowledge production and dissemination and mount a counter-hegemonic challenge to the brahminic control of the levers of knowledge. Rather than ...

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