A Cultural Psychological Reading of Dalit Literature: A Case Study of 'Joothan' By Om Prakash Valmiki

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Aparna Vyas


Dalit literature has been a major cultural artefact in struggles against caste based oppression and discrimination. It not only negotiates a collective identity for Dalits but also introduces variability in negotiations for the same. This paper focuses on the nuances of one such negotiation- the making of a Hindi Dalit writer. At the theoretical backdrop of cultural psychology, utilizing the conceptual machinery of Zittoun, the paper analyzes the autobiographical narrative of Om Prakash Valmiki. It identifies the ruptures and the transitional processes in Valmiki’s life. These processes of transitions include identity redefinition, knowledge and skills; and meaning making. These processes were facilitated by varied resources: social, cognitive and symbolic. Valmiki’s relocation to a city led to the change in his frame of activity. Thereafter, at each stage of his life, his social circle widened, his cognitive skills got enhanced and symbolic resources were used at progressively higher level of reflexivity. The major social resources were found to be the people with whom he came in contact after relocating to the city. The cognitive resources were found to be Hindi mainstream literature, Marathi Dalit literature, and theatrical devices. The symbolic resources were the works of Phule, Ambedkar and Marx. Accessibility and utilization of all these resources eased the reconfiguration of the semiotic prism reifying his identity as a Hindi Dalit writer enabling him transform the caste-based experiences on the plane of fiction challenging the power hierarchy embedded in social reality.

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Vyas, A. (2020). A Cultural Psychological Reading of Dalit Literature: A Case Study of ’Joothan’ By Om Prakash Valmiki. CASTE / A Global Journal on Social Exclusion, 1(2), 157-168. https://doi.org/10.26812/caste.v1i2.188
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