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

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Dalit Journals in Colonial Madras (1869–1943)

The contribution of Dalit journals is virtually undocumented in the history of Tamil print media, and the only historiographic trends that have received scholarly attention so far are the Brahmin nationalist perspective and the non-Brahmin Dravidian perspective. Based on colonial records and journals, this article attempts to construct a history of Dalit journals in colonial Madras by analysing the sociopolitical contexts and the content of 42 journals published from 1869 to 1943. The wide-ranging conversations in these journals suggest that Dalits were not only active agents in creating a modern identity, questioning their marginalisation, but were also involved in knowledge production in an otherwise restricted public sphere.

This article is an abridged version of the author’s PhD thesis, completed at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, in 2012. It was presented in a two-day workshop titled “Turning the Page: New Directions in South Asian Book History” held on 9 and 10 March 2017 at the University of Chicago Center in Delhi. The author is grateful to their doctoral advisor A R Venkatachalapathy and the reviewers for EPW for their valuable feedback and comments.

Colonialism was an important but contradictory phase for Indian subalterns. During this time, they experienced rigidity of social status through standardisation and legitimisation of caste through various institutions. At the same time, they got the opportunity to escape the caste system through colonial governing systems like the rule of law, political representation and education for all. The British policy of non-interference in the culture and tradition of Indian society helped Brahmins uphold the system of caste, but the interests of “lower castes” were also protected by the state policy of equality before law. These kinds of changes positively influenced the Dalits and other minorities to emerge as political groups and start movements. They used print media like journals, pamphlets and books for not only sociopolitical advan­cements but also to transform society at large.

The Rise of a Dalit Press

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Updated On : 20th Oct, 2020
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