As a poet she made breakthrough in Indian English writing in 50s and 60s.


 “My Story”( partly story, partly autobiography) evoked much furor in
Kerala when it came out. If we are to juxtapose it with the
overwhelming ‘reception’ given to her posthumously in Kerala, we could
understand all the contradictions defining  the Malayali society.
“MyStory” is a work which defies all definitions.

Harris narrated his  personal experience of translating her stories
and difficulties in finding a publisher. How Penguin Books delayed and
eventually rejected the manuscript( she thought it was because
Khuswant singh was in the advisory panel), how it subsequently got
published through Orinet Longman, and her immediate response to
reading the translation. She invited him for a feast at her home!
There she introduced Harris to some other guests as a Malabar muslim
who is blessed with the  traditional wisdom of reading faces and
predicting future!  He was chased down by those guests for telling
their fortunes!

She has played with her life in similar fashion all through. She was
an author who took such games seriously in her writing—Harris
concluded his commemorative speech.

Then he narrated how he   accidentally came to know about  C.Ayyappan.
It was during “Kurichi struggle’, a dalit social movement in Kottayam.
A Dalit feminist group performed a play, which inspite of its amateur
/ imperfect rendering caught the imagination of the audience.While
enquiring about it Yesudasan, a scholar told Harris that it draws on a
short story by C.Ayyappan.

Finding a copy of C.Ayyappan’s short story collection published by N B
S was also very difficult.. Nobody at the bookshop was aware of such
an author. In the end he managed to get hold of one copy from the

Fascinated by Ayyappan’s stories, Harris decided to make a film out of
one of his stories. Though the script was completed, it is yet to
materialize due to financial reasons.


C’R Omanakkuttan began his speech by noting that though Kamala
Suraiyya lived in Ernakulam, he met her only once. But C.Ayyappan
never met her. It is not intentional or accidental. Even prominent
literary critics like M. Leelavathi and M.Achuthan who were colleagues
of Ayyappan never recognized or acknowledged him as a writer.

Omanakkuttan shared the joy and wonder in finding powerful short
stories like “kaval bhootham’ and “arundhathee darsana nyayam’three
decades ago.Ayyappan’s place is Malayalam is unmatched and unique.

Omanakkuttan also shared his experience  as a colleague of Ayyappan in
Ernakulam Maharajas College.He also pointed out the opposition he
faced from some fellow members of MGUniversity board of studies when
he argued that C.ayyappan’s story should be included in the syllabus.
All the Malayalam professors in the committee were ignorant of the
existence of such an author.

Though Ayyappan wrote about  twenty odd short stories over three
decades, those stories are powerful enough to question the Malayalai
literary establishment, he opined.


Now it is a well-known fact that the post-structural and postmodern theories paved the way for developing analytical tools to look into the cultural constitutions of the oppressed and marginalized communities. Even before the advent of post-structural theories Frantz Fanon (1925-1961), the Algerian revolutionary and psychiatrist wrote from the perspective of a colonial subject. His writings had asserted the need to formulate culture based resistance to overcome the colonial hegemony. He placed the cultural (including literary) aspect of colonial and post-colonial history at the center of his discussions. His two books, The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skin, White Masks? opened up an enquiry into the culture based politics with emphasis upon local and marginalized cultures. Marxism conceived human identity as the ensemble of social relations. Accordingly it is the class relation, which in the ultimate analysis determines the identity of the individual. In this sense human being in every part of the world regardless of his caste and religion exhibits the same kind of identity under capitalist system. Indeed the economic exploitation is more or less same everywhere and human beings in general share the hardship of alienation in almost all parts of the world. At the same time colonialism has paved the way for western hegemony in the realm of culture. It was the experience of the cultural contradiction between the white centred western way of life and the black centred African way of life which persuaded Fanon to formulate a culture based resistance.

Fanon explains the formation of colonial subjectivity and thereby the rising up of the anti-colonial resistance. Before Marx philosophers explained   human identity as mere transcendental phenomenon. Marxian interpretation of history helped to wipeout   the mystification inherent in the philosophical explanation regarding human identity. Accordingly human essence was explained as the ensemble of productive relations. In this sense it was the class relation, which in the ultimate analysis shapes the human individuality. However the collapse of Soviet Union and the developments thereafter leads one to enquire further into the question of identity because we are bound to see the different factors which shape the individual identity. It does not mean that we can ignore the economic factor, which plays a dominant role in the formation of identity. Indeed the structural and post-structural developments in philosophy have created an atmosphere conducive to slightly stretch the Marxian interpretation as Fanon suggested to develop an effective mode of interpreting human identity. According to Fanon an intellectual living under colonialism passes through three stages. Let me quote from Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth;

“In the first phase, the native intellectual gives proof that he has assimilated the culture of the occupying power. His writings correspond point by point with those of his opposite numbers in the mother country. His inspiration is European and we can easily link up these works with definite trends in the literature of the mother country. This is the period of unqualified assimilation…

In the second phase we find the native is disturbed; he decides to remember what he is. This period of creative work approximately corresponds to that immersion which we have just described. But since the native is not a part of his people, he is content to recall their life only. Past happenings of the bygone days of his childhood will be brought up out of the depths of this memory: old legends will be reinterpreted in the light of a borrowed aestheticism and of a conception of the world which was discovered under other skies….

Finally, in the third phase, which is called the fighting phase, the native, after having tried to lose himself in the people and with the people, will on the contrary shake the people…hence comes a fighting literature, and a national literature.”(Frantz Fanon,The Wretched of the Earth, Penguin, 1967, 178-179.).

So Fanon speaks about the subject who realizes the need to counter the ruling colonial culture. The formation of such a subject is made possible by means of two factors. One is the acquaintance with the modern colonial education and the other is the memory of one’s own lived culture. The revolutionary thoughts of Fanon influenced many writers like Ngugi wa Thiong and produced a good number of activists and literature. However from 1970s left intellectuals all over the world turned towards new studies based on Freud, Lacan, Althusser, Barthes, Christeva, Raymond Williams, Derrida and Foucault to interpret the cultural formation. This in turn produced the dictum, ‘turn to the subject’. It was Lacan who showed the way in which the ‘other’ get constituted in culture. Similarly Althusser’s doctrine of ideology explained the process of interpellation, which constitutes the subjectivity. The ambition of Raymond Williams to create a common culture was indeed the outcome of a socialist outlook. At the same time the logic of domination in the realm was not fully revealed by the effort of Williams. There is no doubt that Williams could analyze the material basis of culture. However the difference in the construction of one’s identity plays an important role in the domination/subjugation of different people. Lacanian mirror phase is the stage, which a native or a colonized subject realizes when he/she recollects the past from the new perspective. In a multi-cultural society instead of a common culture different individuals could recollect different cultures because he/she was born and brought up in different cultures. Actually it is not the individual variation but the social strata, which constitute the difference. Lacan insists that the experience of the unconscious operates in terms of a ‘synchronic’ time (where past, present and future can interrelate and overlap in all kinds of unpredictable ways) rather than in the ‘diachronic’ linear time of sequential punctuations. So the individual identity is not something, which is the creation of past or present in isolation. His/her lived experience meant that which the individual faces in the present world in the light of his/her conscious and unconscious past. Despite the monolithic structure of economy the cultural differences retain and maintain different identities in social life. Even when we share the common economic pleasures and pains we have different cultural identities with respect to the culture of which we belong. As Edward Said suggests, ‘all cultures are involved in one another; none is single and pure, all are hybrid, heterogeneous, extraordinarily differentiated, and unmonolithic.’(Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism, Vintage Books, New York, 1994, p. xxv.).

Nowadays we are bound to recognize the cultural differences and the fragmented nature of individual subjectivity. So a human being is inerpellated as a worker whose work as well as consumption is a necessity to maintain the capitalist system. He or she is also interpellated as a Dalit or female or as a black or as a Muslim in the present world. In the ultimate analysis a Dalit also belong to the class of the proletariat in the present world because he or she is destined to share the sufferings of high capitalism. For instance in India he or she loses the caste-based reservation as a result of economic reforms, which result in the closure of public institutions and withdrawal of the government from welfare activities. When the government decided to close down the government or aided schools which are identified as uneconomic following the dictates of international monetary agencies the lowest strata of the society mainly scheduled castes and scheduled tribes loses to opportunity to study and work in such institutions. So economic liberalization has direct consequences in the life of Dalits in Kerala as elsewhere.

At the same the Dalit individual has a different identity from an upper caste individual as his/her past and present differ from those belonging to the upper castes. In this respect culture has a very important role. As Althusser has shown different ideological state apparatuses function in order to constitute the individual subject as an obedient member of the civil society. The feudalism of the Indian kind propagated the ideology of caste hegemony in order to exploit the working class. It is the mechanical interpretation of class, which wiped out the possibility to identify the role of caste oppression in the realm of culture in Indian society. The early Marxist thinkers identified the economic factor, which created the caste oppression. As a corollary they believed that the caste domination could be erased with the changes in the realm of economy. If we accept this interpretation caste system will disappear with the advent of capitalism. So the left as well as Nehruvian socialists put forward the idea that the capitalist modernity itself will remove caste difference. The left intellectuals could not either undertake objective studies with respect to Indian condition or follow left writers like Antonio Gramsci who put forward ideas about ideological continuity of the feudal society even in developed societies. In order to make clear the function of ideology and its continuation in the present Indian context we should follow the theory of hegemony put forward by Gramsci.

“In England the development is very different from France. The new social grouping that grew up on the basis of modern industrialism shows a remarkable economic-corporate development but advances only gropingly in the intellectual-political field. There is a very extensive category of organic intellectuals –those, that is, who come into existence on the same industrial terrain as the economic group-but in the higher sphere we find that the old land owning class preserves its position of virtual monopoly. It loses its economic supremacy but maintains for a long time a politico-intellectual supremacy and is assimilated as “traditional intellectuals” and as directive (dirigente) group by the new group in power. The old land-owning aristocracy is joined to the industrialists by a kind of suture which is precisely that which in other countries unites the traditional intellectuals with the new dominant classes.” (Antonio Gramsci, Selections from Prison Notebooks, London, p.18.Italics my own.)

So the role of intellectuals and the politico-intellectual supremacy explained by Gramsci is nothing but the ideological supremacy of the dominant group. In India the land owning aristocracy together with the newly evolved industrial class managed to capture power from the British rulers. After independence they could retain the ideological supremacy especially in the realm of culture. Even when we talk against caste oppression and untouchability we are inclined to admit the supremacy of the upper caste. In United States of America the government is at present very much disturbed by the deconstructionists as they undertake the task of undermining the core culture by establishing different cultural identities. Samuel Huntington who once stood for culture politics has now turned against deconstructionists with his new book, Who are We? Actually it was a mock war which Huntington put forth in his The Clashes of Civilization. Much confusion was created in the minds of intellectuals who stood for the cause of the oppressed since the right wing supporter of US attack on Iraq and Afghanistan propagated the idea of culture-war. I say it was a mock war because it misinterpreted the cultural contradictions of the world with the clear intention of humiliating the marginalized cultures. Huntington produced the reverse side of what Edward Said produced in culture studies. The actual colour of Huntington has come out with his new book, which opposes all marginalized cultures and even proposes procedures to topple culture-based reservation and other considerations given in the academia to the hitherto underprivileged. Since the space in this article does not permit me to go into the details of Huntington’s paradoxical position at present I leave it for the readers to guess what kind of civilization will emerge from the vision of Huntington. Anyhow we should distinguish the politics of cultural identity from the politics of civilization, which Huntington proposes. The notion of civilization itself is a Western construct and it knowingly or unknowingly devalues native cultures in the erstwhile colonies. On the other hand culture stands for ‘whatever is humanly constructed rather than naturally given, then this ought logically to include industry as well as media, ways of making rubber ducks as well as ways of making love or making merry.’(Terry Eagleton, The idea of Culture, Blackwell, 2000, p.33.) Culture is the way of life or the style of life itself.  Derridean deconstruction of hierarchy has toppled the preference given to certain culture over the others. Above all the deconstructive phase has created an occasion to deal with the rationale behind the preferences and privileges given to certain culture. In the whole world the West is treated as the model for high culture where as in India it is the Brahminical Savarna culture, which is treated as the model for ‘cultured life’.

During the period of   struggle for independence there evolved a national consciousness to oppose the British rule. The national consciousness was an historical necessity to make an end to the foreign rule. At the same time it either dissolved several cultural identities or produced the notion of a Hindu nation. This was made possible by means of two factors. One was the sense of Hindu culture as the dominant culture of the nation or cultural nationalism, which emerged with the politics of nationalism under the Indian National Congress. Definitely the Hindu fundamentalists like Savarkar and Hegdewar poured oil to the fire. But it is pity to note that even Mahatma Gandhi was responsible for that in spite of his secular outlook and tolerance for other faiths. The concept of Rama rajya hails   Rama whereas marginalizes Shambhuka. It created a sense of ‘other’ in the minds of Muslims. This easily turned to polarization based on Hindu/Muslim religion. The second factor was the division of the country and the formation of Pakistan, which helped to carry on the project of cultural nationalism by always treating the Muslim community as the ‘other’. Actually the construction of Muslim as the ‘other’, served the purpose of upper caste ideology. Even after independence the ruling ideology continued to dominate the minds of the citizens in the form of a savarna consciousness. Our media even coined the term ‘national Muslim’. Our intellectuals failed to ask why don’t we refer a Hindu as national/non-national Muslim where as he or she is treated in such a way when belongs to Muslim by birth. Hence the construction of Muslim as the cultural other was used even as a disguise to liquidate the Dalit and other non-savarna communities. We find the culmination of the same practice in the Gujarat genocide.

Dr. Ambedkar on the one hand followed the logic of Western modernity and on the other hand converted to Budhism to escape the caste menace. With respect to the period in which he waged the war it was praiseworthy and deserves much attention. It is noteworthy that it was the period when Gandhi spoke for the untouchables with Bhagavad-Gita in his hand. This type of contradiction was everywhere because the tradition haunted the intellectuals, writers and activists in the form of dominant ideology. Not only Arya Samaj and Brahma Samaj but also the very national movement represented by Indian National Congress could not address the differences with in the so-called Indian identity. The organic intellectuals belonging to non-savarna communities    failed to go back to their own memories to establish their identity. Like any other society they argued for change either following the paradigm of the West or the mainstream national tradition, which was Brahminical or savarna. To a great extent Dr.Ambedkar was exceptional for he identified Budhism as the alternative. But he also could not put forth a Dalit alternative.

In the newly evolved situation the Dalit and Non-Savarna intellectuals have started to realize their identity and began to question the hegemonic ideology of the caste-based hierarchy created as a part of the Indian feudalism. Even after the formation of industrial capital in India the ideological apparatuses used to assimilate the individuals and even intellectuals into the caste based tradition. The traditional intellectuals as well as organic intellectuals asserted the core culture as the tradition. In philosophy Dr.S.Radhakrishnan started this venture by way of interpreting the Hindu way of life. (Even our supreme court could resort to Radhakrishnan’s interpretation in order to justify the politics of Hindutva in the verdict) At this juncture it is necessary to put forth the identities of hundreds of communities who do not share the mainstream core culture. Not only scheduled castes and scheduled tribes of India but all other communities who share the nom-Brahminic culture should come together and redeem their literature, which is on the brim of disappearance. Kancha Ilaih shows the way in which a Dalit should come forth. In his article, ‘Productive Labour, Consciousness and History: The Dalitbahujan Alternative’, Ilaih says;

“I therefore feel quite strongly that the time has come when we must make our statement as to what we really are and how we really differ from them. Not as different in the way they have shown us to be; meek, merit less, unskilled, foolish, ‘others’. We differ from them because we are skilled producers, productive-instrument makers, and creative builders of the material basis of the society. We must also show that today we are determined to prove that Hinduism and Brahminism represent the world views of the atrocious ‘others’ who have been parasites and whose role has never been positive and constructive.” Ilaih further shows the difference from his own memories of school days.

“Brahmin-Baniya temples were not only far from us, but the Gods sitting, sleeping in those temples were basically set against us. Brahmin-Baniya houses were within our villages, but the very same houses built up a culture inimical to ours. The Brahmin-Baniyas walked in our village over the corpses of our culture. They were the gluttons while our parents were the poor starving people producing all that were necessary for other people’s comfort. Their children were the most unskilled gluttons, whereas our children were the real contributors to the national economy. The notion of life was unworthy of life itself but they repeatedly told our parents that we were the most useless people. Having passed through all the stages of life, having acquired the education that enabled us to see a wider world, nothing but anger and anguish burn in our hearts when we reflect back on our childhood and its processes.” (Subaltern Studies 1X Writings on South Asian History and Society, Ed. Shahid Amin&Dipesh Chakrabarthy, Oxford University Press,1997, p167,180) As Fredric Jameson says culture is always an idea of the other. When an intellectual is bound to enquire into his/her own past naturally he or she understands the way in which his or her identity was constructed. A member of an avarna community was cultural ‘other’ in the Indian context. So culture becomes a weapon in the hands of the untouchables to defend themselves. Now that we have demolished the good/bad (utkrishta/apakrishta) binary the culture of each community means the style of their life, which is neither superior nor inferior. Pokkudan, a worker and environmentalist belongs to the Pulaya (scheduled Caste) community in Kerala. Recently his autobiography has come out. In it he remembers his past. He admits the fact that caste oppression has decreased in Kerala compared to his early days. At the same time the reminiscence of his early days gives a grim picture of caste prejudice. Pokkudan could obtain higher social status under the landlord by producing a false identity of a Nambiar. The material condition of a Dalit except in the case of Adivasis is much better in Kerala compared to neighbouring TamilNadu. This is evident from the writings of Thirumaavalavan. In his Talisman Thirumaavalavaan explains how the caste-fanatic frenzy prevents the Dalits from filing nomination papers in the reserved Panchayat constituencies of Pappapatti, Keeripatti, Nattarmangalam and Kottakatchiyendal. Thirumaavalavan explains a lot of such harassments and oppressions.

Although there is rare possibility for such harassments in Kerala we have to be afraid of the recent discussions focusing against caste based reservation. This type of discussions is made possible by projecting the false arguments based on meritocracy and equality of opportunity. Recent Supreme Court verdict in support of Un-Aided Management also curtails the opportunities of the oppressed castes especially scheduled castes of India. In the context of Kerala this will lead to lose what the Dalits have gained in public life. Caste or community based reservation is always explained as the compensation for the past atrocities. This is sheer non-sense. Caste-based reservation is meant to obtain political and administrative power, which was denied to the members of such communities. The sharing of power by different sects of societies is an inevitable way to eradicate culture-based prejudices. In the case women also this is the one of the important ways to root out gender-based prejudice. In August 1990, Prime Minister V.P Singh announced that 27% of central government positions would be set aside for the other backward communities in addition to the 22% set aside for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. The Mandal commission recommended reservation for about 400 caste spread over India on the basis of the following observation. The report said; “If a tree is to be judged by its fruits, equality of results is obviously the most reliable test of our aspirations and efforts to achieve a just and equitable order. A formidable task under any circumstances, it becomes particularly so in a society which has remained segmented in a finely graded caste hierarchy for centuries.”(Report of the Backward Classes Commission, New Delhi: Government of India) In this article on Dalit identity I mention the above factors related to reservation of the backward communities to remind about the way in which the Upper Castes of the country reacted to this announcement. It is noteworthy that it was the Mandal announcement, which led to the consolidation of the Hindutva forces. The same “otherness” was used to consolidate the upper castes of India. Just like US imperialism placing Muslim “other” to attack and conquer smaller countries, in India the savarna ideology places the Muslim “other” to muster power over the non-savarna. Without addressing the issue the Dalits of the country cannot workout their resistance against the upper caste onslaught.

Before concluding the essay I like to mention some of the recent writings of the Dalits from Kerala for showing the process of evolving culture-based identity, which counter the hegemonic ideology. Above all they spring from the postmodern political scenario. And in the final analysis they too serve the interest of the poor and oppressed. C.K.Janu’s auto/biography explains the identity of an adivasi who belongs to the scheduled tribe. Accordingly the tribes who had to depend upon the forest for their livelihood suffer from poverty as their right to possess forest has been denied. She remembers her early days and constructs her own identity in the light of her new understanding. She came in touch with the mainstream life by way of participating in literacy work and left politics. Later she deviates from the left to focus on tribal issue, which is only one among other issues for the left. However the social movements such as literary work and left labour union activities led her to identify her own social position.

This in turn helped her to undertake struggles for the cause of tribes. When a tribe goes back to the memory of the past it paves the way to identify oneself in relation to the nature of which he/she belonged. It helps not only to protect the tribe but also to protect the environment. In one of the stories Narayan explains the grievance of his family when his son sold out the honey-sweet jack tree. Narayan who belongs to Adivasi community became a writer, as he happened to see the misrepresentation of his community by others in the mainstream print media. Narayan who attained formal education at school level and got a government job could become a writer and invite the attention of others towards the plight of his community. One of the collections of stories, Nissahayante Nilavili (Sigh of the Helpless) contains stories, which depicts anguish over the way in which the main stream treats the tribes. Meanwhile he reveals the grief over the way in which the living environment is being destroyed by the new generation. The honey sweet jack tree talks to Ayyappan before it was being felled.

“For generations I had warded off a family’s hunger, provided shade, maintained water-reserves, and kept the surrounding soil fertile. Are not these acts crimes according to the new law? Your son thinks that the jack tree is an impediment to the growth of rubber. He obtained money for selling me.”

The story ends as follows; “Surendran, you don’t know the relation between trees and the earth. If you cut down a tree, the roots will dry up, and the soil will be eroded by the rain and blown off by the wind. Stones that do not secrete water will emerge. Can’t you leave this place and go somewhere else?’ “Whereto, Father?”(105-110, Indian Literature, 224.)

Select Bibliography

1. Thirumaavalavan, Talisman, Translated from the Tamil by MeenaKandasamy, Samya, Kolkata, 2003.

2. Shahid Amin &Dipesh Chakrabarty, Ed. Subaltern Studies, Writings on South Asian History and Society, Oxfor University Press, Delhi,1997.

3. Eagleton, Terry, The Idea of Culture, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford,2000.

4. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of The Earth, Trans. C.Farrington, Penguin, 1967.

5.Gramsci, Antonio, Selections from Prison Notebooks, Trans. Quintin Hoare, Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1991.

6. Lacan, Jacques, The Language of the self, The Function of Language in Psychoanalysis, John Hopkins University Press, 1968.

7.Althusser, Louis, Lenin and Philosophy and other essays, Monthly Review press, New York and London, 1971.

8.Williams, Raymond, Problems in Materialism and Culture, Verso edition and NLB, London, 1982

9. Huntington, Samuel P., The Clashes of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Penguin Books, 1996.

10. ———-, America’s Great Debate Who Are We? Penguin Books, 2004.

11. Janu.C.K, Bhaskaran, Januvinte Jeevitha Katha, DC Books, Kottayam, 2004

12. Pokkudan, Kandal Kadukalkidayil Ente Jeevitam, Editor, Thaha Matayi, DC Books, Kottayam, 2005

13. Kancha Ilaih, Why I am not a Hindu, A Sudra Critique of Hindutva Philosophy, Culture and Political Economy, Samya, Calcutta, 1996.

14. Carl Olson, Indian Philosophers and Postmodern Thinkers, Dialogues on the Margins of Culture. Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2002.

The First Neera Desai Memorial


The First Neera Desai Memorial The First Neera Desai Memorial Lecture was organised by the Research Centre for Women’s Studies, SNDT Women’s University, the Department of Post Graduate Studies and Research, SNDT Women’s University and the Department of Civics and Politics, University of Mumbai. The lecture was held in the Kalina campus of the Mumbai University on the 23rd of September 2010. The programme began with Dr. Kanamma of the Dept of Civics and Politics inviting Prof. Susie Tharu , Prof. Veena Poonacha, Prof. Vibhuti Patel, Mr. Mihir Desai and Dr. Gita Chadha on the stage. A chair was reserved for the Vice Chancellor, Dr. Rajan Welukar. This was followed by a welcome note from the Head, Dept of Civics and Politics, Prof. Jondhale. Prof. Veena Poonacha, Director, RCWS, detailed the tremendous impact made by Prof. Neera Desai to the field of Women’s Studies. Prof. Poonacha recollected the contribution of Prof. Desai not only in setting up the RCWS, the first women’s studies centre in India but also to the setting up of the Centre for Rural Development at the RCWS. Prof. Veena Poonacha remembered Neera ben, known thus to people in women’s studies, to be a warm, gentle but firm human being with a great passion for social transformation. Prof. Vibhuti Patel, Director of the PGSR introduced Prof. Susie Tharu to the audience.Prof. Patel said that Prof. Tharu has always been an inspirational scholar with a ‘special Susie touch’ to whatever she does. Prof. Patel also recollected Prof. Neera Desai and welcomed Ms. Mihir Desai, son of Dr. A.R.Desai and Dr. Neera Desai. Following Prof. Patel’s address, Prof. Tharu delivered the First Neera Desai Memorial Lecture on ‘Once again: What is Literaure? Notes form Dalit Literary Movements in Kerala and Tamilnadu. Prof. Tharu argued that Dalit writing challenges the literary traditions and conventions of modern western literature. Illustrating he arguments with writings of major Dalit writers, Prof Tharu argued that dalit literary writing challenged conventions of both form and content. She also indicated that there is a need amongst feminists to address issues in Dalit writing which have been marginalized. She said that feminists have to move towards a greater self reflexivity. The Hon Vice Chancellor of the Mumbai University, Prof. Rajan Welukar, in his Presidential Address remarked that a person of such eminence and stature as Prof. Tharu must be invited to talk to the students . Dr. Gita Chadha of the RCWS proposed the formal vote of thanks. September 2010: Dr. Susie Tharu gave a talk on What is Literature in the Dalit Literary Movement?: Notes from Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The author’s notes that comprise the sequel to Sivakami’s widely discussed autobiographical novel Pazhayana Kazhidalam, 1988 (Trans. The Grip of Change, 2006; sequel included in this translation)straddle the boundaries between confessional writing, literary criticism and political commentary. Sivakami evolves this composite genre to reflect on the sorcery of realism when it comes to representing dalit worlds and dalits as political subjects. How have other dalit writers wrestled with official reality? What is the aesthetic and philosophical labour of dalit literature today? In an attempt to answer these questions, she began with a discussion of The Grip of Change , and moved on to discuss selections from C Ayyappan and S Joseph.

“Tribal leaders are mere pawns in politics”

"Tribal leaders are mere pawns in politics"

Issue: Jul 31, 2003

Tribal activist C K Janu speaks on adivasi issues and the Muthanga controversy


Dalit Conversion and Social Protest in Travancore, 1854-1890

Dalit Conversion and Social Protest in Travancore, 1854-1890

by George Oommen

The Rev. George Oommen, Ph.D., received his doctorate at the University of Sydney, Australia. He is Chairperson and Professor of History of Christianity and Dean of Graduate Studies at the United Theological College, Bangalore, India. This paper originally appeared in the Bangalore Theological Forum, Vol. XXVII, Nos. 3 & 4, Sept – Dec. 1996, pp. 69-84.

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