The Rhetoric of Dalit Psychological Suffering in Meena Kandasamy’s The Gypsy Goddess (2014)

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Bianca Cherechés


This article attempts to demonstrate that somatic trauma caused by caste-based oppression does not stop in the bone but has the ability to penetrate the inner psyche of Dalits in multiple and unexpected ways. The novel The Gypsy Goddess (2014) serves as a comprehensive repository of wronged and misinterpreted historical events, but also lays bare the impact that systemic forms of oppression can have on people’s mental health. While mainstream trauma theory has been the model used by many scholars for decades to address trauma, uncritically universalising this generalised concept of ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder’ (PTSD) (American Psychiatric Association, 1980) risks rendering the specificity of long-term pain suffered by oppressed groups, such as Dalits, invisible and unknowable. Thus, many are the scholars who have called for an expansion of the scope and a revision of the dominant conceptions of trauma and recovery. Therefore, in order to examine the impact of casteism from a psychological dimension, this article discusses trauma as ‘a spectrum of conditions’ rather than a single response (Herman 1992), considering the cumulative degradation and subtle effects of ‘insidious trauma’ (Root 1989; 1992), the generational transmissibility of trauma and its pre-traumatic stress (PreTss) reactions (Bond & Craps 2017). Drawing on the omnipresent connection between the individual and the collective in The Gypsy Goddess, the ‘founding’ nature (LaCapra 2014) of Dalit trauma and the combination of ubiquitous exposure to historical loss and endless structural absence of basic human rights are also key aspects.

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Cherechés, B. (2024). The Rhetoric of Dalit Psychological Suffering in Meena Kandasamy’s The Gypsy Goddess (2014). CASTE A Global Journal on Social Exclusion, 5(2), 143–159.
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