“We may have lost everything, but not the truth”: Oppression, Agency and Resilience in Dalit Women’s Life Narratives Open Access

Farooqi, Minahil (Spring 2022)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/rx913q98x?locale=en


The case of Dalit women, who have often been left out of both Dalit studies and feminist inquiries, is uniquely articulated within Dalit women’s life writings. The plight of Dalit women is distinct from those of both their Dalit male counterparts and privileged caste female counterparts, as is uniquely characterized by what scholars Nidhi Sadana Sabharwal and Wandana Sonalkar deem a ‘triple burden’: of not only caste discrimination and economic deprivation, but also external caste and internal Dalit patriarchy. This work uses the ‘triple burden’ as a framing lens, and is a comparative analysis of four pieces of Dalit discourse written or narrated by Dalit women which detail their lives between the 1940's and 1990's. The life narratives examined include Baby Kamble's The Prisons We Broke, Urmila Pawar's The Weave of my Life, Sujatha Gidla's Ants Among Elephants and Viramma, written and published by Jean-Luc and Josiane Racine and narrated by Viramma. This work, through its analysis of direct quotations and deep focus on the realm of the emotive, identifies specific, shared ways in which the ‘triple burden’ impacts the communities described across these four life narratives, depicting in great detail how caste oppression, patriarchy and economic deprivation interact and permeate distinct factors of everyday life for Dalit women. At the same time, this study illustrates how Dalit women have found ways to attain creative agency, inherit a sense of political conviction and find unfettered joy in their lives while enduring their distinct position. 

Table of Contents

Foreword 1

Introduction Part I: On Dalits 5

Introduction Part II: Dalit Life Writing 18 Chapter I: Caste Discrimination 34

Chapter II: Gender Bias 54

Chapter III: Economic Deprivation 78 Chapter IV: Resistance, Resilience and Joy 99

Conclusion 122

Works Cited 134 

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