Dalit writing in the 21st century: activism and literary aesthetics in contemporary India

Bilton, D., 2021. Dalit writing in the 21st century: activism and literary aesthetics in contemporary India. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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Abstract

This thesis is an exploration of the relationship between Dalit activism and literature through an analysis of literature published in the 21st century. I argue that contemporary literature has a fundamentally different relationship with the activist project than that of forty years ago. Since the inception of the Dalit Panthers in the early 1970s, Dalit literature has been inextricably tied to the activist project, with many Dalit activists using literature as an extension of their activism. In this thesis, I argue that this close relationship has changed as we have entered the 21st century. I argue that although contemporary Dalit literature often reflects the concerns of political and social activists, contemporary writers are becoming ever more concerned with literary experimentation and innovation. This focus on literary style and form comes at a moment when writers are beginning to represent Dalit communities in a more positive light, rather than focusing on the pain and degradation of Dalit lives. This combination has created a different kind of Dalit literature that is radically different from its predecessors. I explore what kind of relationship this literature has with the contemporary activist and political world, whilst also exploring how Dalit art and culture has the potential to inspire a new generation of Dalits and give them a feeling of self-respect. This thesis also explores how Dalits turn to other religions in a bid to reject the dogma of Hinduism which sees them as untouchable, as well as analysing the use of Dalit gods within contemporary Dalit literature. This research offers a radically different perspective of Dalit literature that does not position it as a sociological account of Dalit life. Instead, this thesis views Dalit literature as art in its own right that is infused with the creative energy of Dalit communities. This creativity, in the form of Dalit literature, points towards a positive route towards self-respect for Dalits that does not need to rely on the narratives of suffering upon which Dalit literature was founded.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Bilton, D.
Date: January 2021
Rights: The copyright in this work is held by the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the Nottingham Trent University Quality Handbook Supplement Requirements for submission of a research degree thesis September 2019 page 2 QHS11A information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the author.
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 15 Sep 2021 08:09
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2021 08:09
URI: http://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/44171

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