ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Writing the Self

Writing the Self

Hindi Dalit Literature and the Politics of Representation by Sarah Beth Hunt (New Delhi: Routledge), 2014; pp 264, Rs 695.

The two recent landmark anthologies compiled by K Satyanarayana and Susie Tharu (2011, 2013) on dalit writings in Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu, not only document the upsurge in dalit literature, particularly since the 1970s, but also compellingly show how dalit writers have made strategic interventions in the field of print and knowledge. It has also been widely acknowledged that it was the post-Independence dalit literary movement in Maharashtra, with its rich corpus of life-writing texts, autobiographies, stories and poems that provided the first systematic stimulus to dalit literature. This has been coupled with the fact that this region has particularly proved rich in dalit histories, with the pioneering figures of Jyotiba Phule and Bhimrao Ambedkar hailing from here.

At the same time, the meteoric rise of the Bahujan Samaj Party and the dynamism of dalit movement in Uttar Pradesh (UP) have compelled many scholars to shift their gaze to the Hindi heartland. The works of Badri Narayan (2006), Ramnarayan Rawat (2012), Laura Brueck (2014) and Kanwal Bharti (2011) have highlighted how since the 1920s, north Indian urban, literate dalits began writing in Hindi, viewing print and publishing as a critical tool for social, political and economic mobility, and for claiming dignity. Sarah Beth Hunt’s book adds another engaging chapter to this rich body of work.

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