Caste-ing Space: Mapping the Dynamics of Untouchability in Rural Bihar, India Bluestone Rising Scholar 2021 Award

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Indulata Prasad


B. R. Ambedkar, the scholar, activist, and chief architect of the Indian constitution, in his early twentieth century works, referred to the untouchable quarters in India as ghettos. He recognized that untouchability was manifested through combining social separation with spatial segregation. Ambedkar’s theorization of untouchability can be applied along with feminist and Dalit scholars’ theories of the relationship between dynamic spatial experiences and the reworking of caste hierarchies to understand how securing control over productive assets, such as land, has altered social and spatial segregation in rural Bihar. Combined with narratives of the past and present, maps drawn by Bhuiyan Dalit women depicting the physical spaces they occupy in their village (i.e. housing, community center), the locations of sources of water and electricity, and the quality of the resources to which they have access demonstrate that gaining control over land following the Bodhgaya Land Movement (BGLM) of the late 1970s helped end the most overt and readily discernible forms of caste-based discrimination. Nevertheless, resource discrimination and spatial and social segregation continue, albeit more covertly. The logic of untouchability still undergirds social interactions in rural Bihar, preventing Dalits from fully realizing their rights as guaranteed by law.

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How to Cite
Prasad, I. (2021). Caste-ing Space: Mapping the Dynamics of Untouchability in Rural Bihar, India. CASTE / A Global Journal on Social Exclusion, 2(1), 132-152.
Research Articles
Author Biography

Indulata Prasad, Arizona State University

Assistant Professor, Women and Gender Studies, School of Social Transformation, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA, 85287–4308