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Dalits and the Anti-Caste Epistemology: From Oral to Literary Tradition in Telugu Country

Chinnaiah Jangam, Carleton University

November 2, 2023 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · 144 Louis A. Simpson Building

M. S. Chadha Center for Global India

Caste is one of human history’s oldest forms of inequality, legitimized by Brahmanical knowledge and enforced through caste-based violence and dehumanization. This paper argues that the anti-caste articulations are as old as caste itself. Using the Telugu-speaking areas as a historical site, this paper tracks the anti-caste epistemology articulated by Dalits for centuries in the forms of oral and folk traditions. With the dawn of colonial modernity, anti-caste articulations in the form of literary journals, texts, and political pamphlets in the colonial public sphere challenged caste inequality and Brahmanical power and supremacy. The paper uses Kula (Caste) Puranas of the marginalized communities as an oral resistance tradition and the Telugu publications of Dalits and anti-caste writers to build an alternative anti-caste epistemology that resisted Brahmanical oppression and envisioned egalitarian philosophy of equality and dignity as a precondition for human emancipation.

Chinnaiah Jangam is an associate professor in the Department of History at Carleton University. His research focuses on the social and intellectual history of Dalits in modern South Asia, illuminating the histories of marginalization and resistance through the lens of Dalits. It attempts to construct an historical narrative of anti-caste epistemology as a stepping stone to an ethical and egalitarian world. His first book, “Dalits and the Making of Modern India,” was published by Oxford University Press in 2017. He is currently working on several projects, including a memoir about his mother and a translation of the Telugu classic “Gabbilam” (The Bat).

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