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Theorizing Dalit Creativity

B. Mangalam

By Devendra Choubey
Orient Blackswan, Delhi, 2009, pp.248, Rs.175.00


Devendra Choubeys book Adhunik Sahitya Mein Dalit Vimarsh (Dalit Discourse In Modern Literature) is a collection of essays written by him on various aspects of Hindi dalit literature, published in journals over a period of 15 years. It is a timely intervention in dalit studies which merits a sustained, serious, critical evaluation and theorization on its literary production. Structured on grounds of genre, intellectual bearings and ideological position of Hindi dalit writings, the book offers a detailed and nuanced reading of substantial dalit writings in Hindi published in the last 15 odd years. Dalit literature in Hindi emerged as a sustained literary movement and gained critical attention in the post-Mandal period. Literary journals like Hans and Katha Desh deserve credit for providing visibility, space, editorial encouragement and discerning scholarship on dalit writings in Hindi. Rajendra Yadav, the editor of Hans and well-known Hindi novelist, reserved an exclusive column in the journal for presenting dalit discourse. Excerpts from autobiographies of todays well-known dalit writers in Hindi were published in this journal first. Thus, Hindi dalit discourse found receptive critical intervention in mainstream Hindi journals and literary space almost from its initial phase of articulation. Devendra Choubeys essays on Hindi dalit literary discourse reflect the core of such a critical trend indeed. His analysis of major texts under multiple genres published over a good fifteen odd years reflects mainstream critical reception to dalit writings in Hindi. Choubeys theoretical orientation lends a much needed scholarly critical input to analysis of dalit literary writings. This, in fact, is the distinctive feature of Choubeys book. Literary criticism on dalit literature has unfortunately been rooted in identity politics or questions concerning aesthetics. It has rarely been subjected to a rigorous, critical reading with a nuanced theoretical position. Choubey refrains from duplicating such a practice. Instead, he lays bare the politics of mainstream critical discourse that views literature as valorized discourse and refuses to reckon with the subversive content of dalit literary discourse. Choubey rightly questions the legitimacy of the argument put forward by empowered coterie of critics who dismiss dalit or adivasi writings as incomplete discourse and thereby seeks to keep the same out of the academy and the process of curriculum making. In the first part of his book, Choubey brings to our attention the politics of inclusion/ exclusion of literary texts in the academy. Academics, teachers, curriculum making. bodies often deny the possibility of a critical ...

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