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Sugandha Nagpal (O.P. Jindal Global University)
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- Wednesday 16 September, 13:00-14:30
Author:Diksha Beniwal (Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur)
Paper short abstract:
To understand the rise of Dalit middle class by examining Ajay Navaria's story "Yes Sir." Is it possible to enter modernity and achieve class mobility without shedding one's caste identity as Dalit? How did colonial history shape modern understanding of caste and the policies adopted by India today?
Paper long abstract:
This paper attempts to understand the relatively new phenomenon of rise of Dalit middle class by examining Ajay Navaria's story, "Yes Sir." How did colonial history shape modern understanding of caste and the policies adopted by India today? Considering the rise of Indian middle class under the British rule, and its involvement in Nationalist movement, can we assume that Dalits can be assimilated into the middle class just by gaining economic mobility? The anthropological studies of the colonial times claimed a racial connection between the Brahmins of India and the white rulers as a superior race while Dalits were claimed to be racially inferior. How does the idea of economic mobility deal with the racial angle of caste? Is it possible to have an empowered class of Dalits given that every opportunity of economic mobility for them is undermined by their marginalized caste identity? "Yes Sir" establishes a seemingly alien and relatively newer power dynamics between a Dalit officer and a Brahmin clerk. Navaria portrays Dalit characters engaged in such struggles of identity amidst shifting caste and class dynamics within a modern city.To understand the contradictions inherent in the term 'Dalit middle class', the paper explores the workings of caste since the colonial rule, leading to contemporary notions that works within the rubrics of a modern society, whose margins are endlessly renegotiated by ideas of individuality and economic mobility. It traces the transformation of the ideas of race and purity as they outlive the traditional understanding of caste.
Author:Sugandha Nagpal (O.P. Jindal Global University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper is focused on young Dalit women from upwardly mobile families residing in Chaheru, a predominantly Dalit village in Punjab with a strong culture of migration. This paper explores the young women's narratives and practices around mobility or the aspiration to move away from the village.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores the operation of mobility as an ideal and aspiration for modern spaces outside the village. In Chaheru despite the prevalence of strong mobility imaginaries linked with migration to Europe and North America and movement to urban spaces, young women's chances of moving away from the village are severely limited. This paper finds that as young women 'wait' in the village they construct plans and draw on imaginaries of the West and urban and rural spaces to construct mobile identities. In contrast to the more socially determined experiences of mobility, young women's plans reveal an image of unhindered autonomy
In interrogating the young women's interactions with mobility, at the level of imaginary and practice, this paper draws on Mahmood(2006)'s notion of agency. In applying Mahmood (2006)'s construct of agency to the young women in Chaheru, multiple dynamics of their agency emerge. At a discursive level, young women's aspiration for individualised and unconstrained forms of mobility can be read as a form of subversion of the prevailing norms, in its refusal to engage with their reality of negotiated physical movement to local urban spaces and Western countries. Moreover, at the level of practice, young women can be seen to be conforming to the social norms set by their families even as, they seek to retain access to education, migration and employment opportunities. Young women's negotiation of mobility can be located in the balancing act they perform between their aspirations for physical and cultural mobility and their family's concerns.