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Caste and Dalit Lifeworlds: Postcolonial Perspectives

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Caste and Dalit Lifeworlds attempts to come to terms with the presence of caste in late modern India by asking two questions: How do we read caste today? Why is

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Caste and Dalit Lifeworlds attempts to come to terms with the presence of caste in late modern India by asking two questions: How do we read caste today? Why is it no longer enough to brand caste as pre-modern and backward? The author argues that caste is less an essence responsible for India’s “backwardness” as an assemblage of a variety of secular and non-secular practices and affects that generate everyday life in India, while being in a constant state of flux—something that cannot be completely contained in a narrative of nation-building, modernization and development. In order to illustrate the importance of reading caste in this light, she turns her archival and analytical focus on both caste Hindu and dalit literary, mythographic and religious texts. The attempt is not to endorse either the caste-system or casteism, but to resist the reified ways in which caste continues to figure in social, scientific and nation-building discourses. Ganguly is in this work admirably cosmopolitan: she is at ease with different intellectual cultures, moving in sophisticated ways between the different perspectives of social science, Historiography, Subaltern studies, theorists of the aesthetic, post structuralism, post colonialism. This is a very learned work, familiar with many fields, interdisciplinary in relaxed attentive ways. – John Docker, Australian National University Debjani Ganguly has chosen an intellectually ambitious project, one that demands both archival and interpretational skills. Her attention to caste as a social sign—text, narrative, discourse—stems from a desire, evidenced everywhere in her book to provide a language for the description of caste identifications and behaviours as part of the dalit `everyday’. This is an important move. Homi K Bhabha, Anne F Rothenberg Professor of English and Americal Literature, Harvard University

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