Personal Emancipation or Cultural Recognition: A Dalit Dilemma
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Lillelund, Caroline Johanne1, Forfatter
Bundgaard, Helle2, Vejleder
1Det Samfundsvidenskabelige Fakultet, Københavns Universitet, København, Danmark, diskurs:7001              
2Institut for Antropologi, Det Samfundsvidenskabelige Fakultet, Københavns Universitet, København, Danmark, diskurs:7008              
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Ukontrollerede emneord: sociale bevægelser, identitet, politik, Dalit, Indien, Karnataka, kaste
 Abstract: The thesis addresses the growing political and ideological splits and disagreements in the Dalit movement in the south Indian state of Karnataka in the early 2000s.
The Dalit movement in Karnataka was one of the first collective struggles for the rights of the Scheduled Castes in India – and probably the longest sustained. By the turn of the century, however, the Dalit movement had lost its former political strength and was marked by splits and internal rivalry to the great frustration of many activists and sympathisers. While some parts of the Dalit movement blamed the social and economic deprivation of the Scheduled Castes on the institution of caste, which they considered intrinsically oppressive and discriminatory, still more Dalit activists and organisations voiced the opinion that caste was an integral, even natural part of Indian culture and history which could and should not be abolished. The Dalit movement was thus profoundly divided between organisations and groupings sticking to the original anti-caste agenda of the movement and newer organisations and groupings claiming that it was the unequal distribution of power, wealth and social status between the different castes in the Indian society which was the problem, not the institution of caste itself.
Based on eleven months ethnographic fieldwork among leaders, activists and sympathisers from a number of different Dalit organisations and groupings in Karnataka, the study examines the reasons for the increasing political division of the Dalit movement and asks why large parts of the Dalit movement in reality have abandoned the struggle against caste and untouchability in favour of a struggle for cultural recognition and political power.
Examining the early history of the Dalit movement in Karnataka, the study shows that the movement right since its emergence in the early 1970s has been marked by a schism between what I have termed as ‘a politics of personal emancipation’ stressing the need to set the individual free from the oppressive stigma of untouchability and ‘a politics of cultural recognition’ stressing the need to restore the cultural pride of the Scheduled Castes and gain power collectively. The schism was accentuated in the course of the 1980s and 1990s, when the issue of identity assumed centre stage in Indian politics and claims for cultural recognition by various identity groups began to overshadow claims for economic redistribution and social justice. The politicisation of Dalit identity has thus always constituted a genuine dilemma to the Dalit movement that has balanced between representing Dalits as the downtrodden, stigmatised victims of caste oppression and as bearers of a rich cultural tradition bereft of due recognition. Though the changed political environment of the 1990s may explain the immediate
reasons behind the Dalit movement’s sudden thorough fragmentation, the thesis argues that the underlying reasons for the conflicting political agendas existing within the movement must be sought in the ambiguous meanings attributed to the notions of identity and caste.
The study shows that an important factor in explaining the political split of the Dalit movement is the oversimplified dichotomy of hierarchy and difference that has characterised the representation of caste in India since the early twentieth century. As established representations of caste, the largely incompatible models of hierarchy and difference stimulate contradictory interpretations of the reasons for the oppression and discrimination of the Scheduled Castes and lead to conflicting political strategies for its solution. While activists agitating for the abolition of caste generally described caste as a repressive, religiously embedded hierarchy, activists agitating for the need of cultural recognition and political power, on the other hand, usually described caste as a social manifestation of profound ethno-cultural difference.Within the Dalit movement caste was thus represented either as an instrument of oppression in the hands of the upper castes or as a potential source of social and political strength and cultural belonging.
Interviews with leaders and activists from the Dalit movement in Karnataka, however, show that their personal experiences of caste in almost all cases related both to the hierarchical and cultural dimensions of caste and that many in their private lives actually found it difficult to act in accordance with their political convictions when it came to the issue of caste: e.g., in relation to the decisive decision about whom to marry. Neither of the two dominant representations of caste did thus adequately correspond to the Dalit activists’ actual experiences of caste and caste identity as elastic and contextual realities. Nonetheless the idioms of hierarchy and difference continued to provide the basic language for discussing the overall political disagreements within the Dalit movement and thus contributed to the frozen conflict between old-time anti-caste organisations and newer ‘pro-caste’ organisations.
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Bogmærk denne post:
 Type: Speciale
Alternativ titel: On the strategic and emotional dilemmas of politicising identity and caste in the Dalit movement in the south Indian state of Karnataka
Alternativ titel: Personlig frigørelse eller kulturel anerkendelse: et Dalit dilemma
Alternativ titel: Om de strategiske og emotionelle dilemmaer der knytter sig til politiceringen af identitet og kaste i dalitbevægelsen i den sydindiske delstat Karnataka
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Sprog: English - eng
 Datoer: 2013-05-01
 Sider: -
 Publiceringsinfo: København : Københavns Universitet
 Indholdsfortegnelse: Preface . 1
Chapter 1
Introduction: Conflicting Ideas of Dalit Liberation 2
The line of inquiry4
Political dilemmas of stigmatised identities.7
Caste in contemporary India: Hierarchy or difference? .9
Outline of the thesis .11
Chapter 2
Approaching the Empirical and Analytical Field . 13
Informants and field methods.15
Political involvement and analytical distance 17
Chapter 3
The Making of the Untouchables and the Politicisation of Caste . 19
The emergence of the Untouchables 19
Anti-Brahminism and the ethnicisation of caste 21
B.R. Ambedkar and the politicisation of ‘untouchability’ .23
The institutionalisation of caste in independent India24
The Scheduled Castes in contemporary Karnataka25
Summary 28
Chapter 4
Dalit Struggle in Karnataka and the Changing Discourses of Indian Politics 29
From redistribution to recognition?29
The Bhim Sena: A separatist vision for the Dalits .30
The ‘bhoosa incident’ and the emergence of a revolutionary Dalit movement32
The Dalit Sangharsh Samiti34
The ‘identity turn’ of Indian politics and the fragmentation of the Dalit movement .38
New political actors, agendas and identities 40
Summary 42
Chapter 5
Imagining Liberation: Personal Emancipation or Cultural Recognition? . 43
Representing Dalit identity 44
Universalist visions of personal emancipation. 46
Liberation through caste-based parliamentary power 49
Communitarian visions of cultural recognition . 52
Questioning universalism. 57
Chapter 6
Dalit Dilemmas of Identity, Solidarity and Belonging 60
Institutionalised oppression or social resource?. 61
A difference that makes a difference . 62
Politics of caste and marriage 64
A sense of belonging 67
Summary 68
Chapter 7
Conclusion . 70
Bibliography 73
Internet Resources 80
Abstract 82
 Note: -
 Type: Speciale
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