Reading Dalit Autobiographies in English: A Top Ten List

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Christopher Queen


Dalit autobiography has joined protest poetry as a leading genre of Dalit Literature since the nineteen seventies. Finding their inspiration in the social and political activism of B. R. Ambedkar (1891-1956), leader of the India’s anti-caste movement and a founding father of the Republic, low caste men and women have documented their struggles and victories in the face of ongoing violence and deprivation. Surveying ten life narratives translated into English from Marathi, Hindi, and Kannada, the essay treats works by Ambedkar, Daya Pawar, Sharankumar Limbale, Baby Kamble, Laxman Gaikwad, Siddhalingaiah, Omprakash Valmiki, Urmila Pawar, Vasant Moon and Namdeo Nimgade. Tracing the origins of Dalit autobiography in the writings of Siddharth College and Milind College students in the 1950s, protest writers in the 1960s, and the Dalit Panthers and their followers in the 1970s, the survey identifies recurring themes of social exclusion, poverty, patriarchy, survival and assertion in the realms of politics, employment, education, and religion. These intimate testimonials share a radical vision of social transformation across caste, class, gender, linguistic and geographic boundaries and provide a needed corrective to mainstream portraits of modern Indian social history.

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Queen, C. (2021). Reading Dalit Autobiographies in English: A Top Ten List. CASTE / A Global Journal on Social Exclusion, 2(2), 281-294.
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