Dalit Feminist Theory: A Challenge to Multiple Hierarchies in India

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 7:00 PM
Room: 302
Distributed Paper
Abha CHAUHAN , Sociology, University of Jammu, JAMMU, India
The early nineteen nineties in India saw the assertion of autonomous Dalit women’s organizations both at the national as well as the regional levels, throwing up crucial theoretical and political challenges. The demands by Dalit, tribal and other lower-caste women were made for inclusion of their concerns in the mainstream politics as well as for analysis of the gender relations that are inflicted by the multiple and overlapping hierarchies in the form of caste, class and patriarchy. A significant shift in the feminist thought of the 1980s and 1990s at the international level was the increasing visibility of Black and Third World feminist work which stimulated and renewed national debate in India about the politics of caste following the implementation of contentious Mandal Commission report in 1989. At this time, the focus on caste acquired a new meaning in gender studies with the realization that within patriarchal male domination, caste-based mechanisms of oppression needed to be addressed in a more systematic and meaningful way and through Dalit women’s own accounts of their experiences. This concern can be visualized in the contemporary democratic upsurge and the awakening of the self-consciousness of oppressed women backed by the growing critical feminist theoretical and ideological paradigms of protest and resistance. This paper argues that Dalit feminist theory from the Global South (India in particular), like similar theories in the world, forms an important addition to the feminist theories as it challenges the multiple hierarchies that critically impact gender relations.