Young Researchers’ Conference On Critiquing caste in /as Dalit Literature

Presidency University Department of English Invites academic papers for Young Researchers’ Conference On Critiquing caste in /as Dalit Literature

( 8th & 9th March, 2016)

Call for Papers:

Caste and caste based movements have traditionally been perceived as the inquiries of the social and the political. Social science disciplines like history and sociology or political science , with their assumed and implied scientificity and claims on truth-value , have been engaging with the ‘caste question’ (Rao) for a long time. Despite Gopal Guru’s pertinent assertion as to how social sciences in India have been practiced in ‘casteist’, exclusionary ways that entailed epistemological as well as material violence to ‘lower caste’ communities, one might still say that caste has, at least, been discussed (albeit not necessarily from a conscious, self-proclaimed anti-caste perspective) in these disciplines. However, the advent of the Marathi Dalit Panthers , in the early nineteen seventies, ferociously pushed the caste question within the realm of literature. This Marathi experience has eventually given birth to similar ideologically loaded literary productions in other vernaculars (like Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Oriya, Punjabi, Gujarati, etc.). Apart from the currency that the term ‘dalit’ got infused with in this process, the existing academic avenues through which social scientists have been engaging with caste , were forced to grapple with something that , in most cases, challenged their disciplinary limits. But, this conference seeks to address a somewhat different but related question: how do we read a literary text (in this case a dalit literary text) that is so unambiguously and emphatically ‘social’ and ‘political’? What are the implications of such ‘literary turn’ in caste studies in India (or South Asia and the South Asian/ Indian diaspora in other parts of the globe)? While the conference is premised upon this fundamental thematic cognition, it also invariably attempts to engage with questions of ‘self’ and the ‘community’; questions and contestations on ethical and ontological issues related to representation, authenticity or lived experience (Guru and Sarukkai). This conference is also aspiring to address how universities are including Dalit literary texts in their syllabi. In other words, following Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, we want to grapple with the politics of canon formation and how dalit literature – as a long neglected domain or ‘outside’ - slowly comes within the ‘teaching machine’. What are the implications of such inclusions for both- anti-caste politics and the way we study literature? How does this influence our contemporary perceptions of caste? This line of thinking, then, takes us to interrogate how we translate and publish these texts to be read by members in the urban, middle class civil society. For decades in post-independence India, anti-caste politics and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s legacy have remained alive among various ‘lower caste’/ dalit constituencies through independent publishing ( e.g. Ambedkar Prakashani or Choturtha Duniya in Bengali) placed outside the organized and direct control of the market (Somwanshi). Therefore, it is more than important to ask how translations and publications of these translated texts (by market-driven ‘mainstream’ publishing houses) influence a particular target readership or how it influences our contemporary and modern perceptions of caste in an urban, consumerist, neo-liberal society. In short, “Critiquing Caste in/as Dalit Literature” seeks to ask questions that are usually submerged under the liberal celebration of pain and suffering in Dalit narratives and instead of having redundant ( redundancy does not imply unimportance in any way) academic discussions on the ‘marginalization of dalits’ in particular literary texts , attempts to have a self-reflexive gaze at the discursive changes that have been / are happening in caste studies, dalit studies and literature.

This broad theme is based upon the following issues that participants might be interested in specifically exploring (in the broader context described above). However, the papers are not essentially bound to remain confined within these issues. These issues are:

a) Dalit literature, alternative history and historiography,

b) Dalit literature , identity and the question of ethics in aesthetic representation,

c) Translating Dalit literature: Politics, problems and challenges in translating Dalit literature,

d) Politics of naming and Dalit literature : Dalit/ Harijan/ Scheduled Castes/ Depressed Classes/ Particular Lower Caste Names(e.g. Namasudra/ Mahar etc.)

e) Politics of publishing Dalit literature: Compulsions in Neo-Liberal market or a question of agency, ownership and appropriation

f) Politics of canon-formation and Dalit writings.

g) Changing / converging critiques of caste: From social sciences and literatures produced by non-dalits to Dalit literature.

Interested participants (PhD / M.Phil / MA students) are requested to send in abstracts ( word limit: 300-400 words), for a twenty minute presentation , on or before 20th January, 2016 to yoreconpresi@gmail.com . Please mention your full name, the course you are pursuing and departmental or institutional affiliation. Selected paper presenters will be notified by 31st January, 2016.

Selected candidates will have to manage their own travel and accommodation arrangements and will have to pay registration fees of Rs: 200 – for research scholars/students and Rs: 500 -for full-time employed faculty cum research scholars.

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