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Smashing the Prison-house

Rupalee Burke

Edited by Sankar Prasad Singha  and Indranil Acharya
Orient Blackswan, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 189, price not stated.


Although this is yet another volume on dalit writing which adds to the burgeoning dalit discourse, it is welcome because dalit literature constitutes an important segment of postmodern literature in India in particular and is a prominent literary site in the South Asian context in general. It is stated in the ‘Acknowledgements’ that the essays collected in this volume were presented in a two-day conference on Translating Dalit Literature: Problems and Prospects at Vidyasagar University. Though a well worn out comparison the ‘Introduction’ does well to place dalit literature among Minority Discourse alongside Black American writing for it is the Black Panther Movement which inspired the Dalit Panther Movement in Maharashtra in the 60s. It is for the first time that dalit literature from all the states of India that it has emerged from has been taken note of under one umbrella. Though sections on dalit literature from different States are not as extensive as they could have been, the book would be useful for the general reader, student, teacher or researcher to get a comprehensive idea. One is a little disappointed when it comes to the equitable presentation of sections of respective dalit writings. Only Bangla dalit literature is allotted a separate section whereas Marathi, Kannada, Gujarati, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, dalit literature are clubbed under the sub-heading ‘A Brief Survey of Dalit Literature in Other Provinces of India’. Malayalam dalit fiction is conspicuous by its absence. The information on Gujarati dalit literature is not only sketchy but incomplete. In the Introduction there is social stratification among the dalits (internal caste hegemony) as well as the emergence of the ‘creamy layer’ among the dalits and the subsequent rise of brahminization in this class of dalits. Dalit communities are ridden with caste and class politics both within and without. The justification of the title of the book is entirely left out. The editors should have justified how dalit literature can or does bring about actual social change once it is written and published. How can it moblize social change or in other words how can it go beyond the text?  The articles are broadly grouped together for discussion in the present review and do not follow the sequence of the table of contents. There are four articles which deal with translation of dalit writings. Harish Narang’s extensive article ‘Politics and Poetics of Writing/Translating Dalit’ pilots this cluster of ...

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