Some time between revisionist and revolutionary: Unreading history in Dalit literature

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This essay considers questions of Dalit historicity in terms of narrative time. Largely a product of the last two decades, Dalit ("untouchable- caste") literature in Hindi is oten read as an uncomplicated expression of Dalit consciousness, an ethnographically revelatory body of writing. I suggest that Dalit literature might be read diferently, as coding a distinct meaning of the historical. the model of narrative time conigured in Dalit writing poses a problem for critics of postcolonial and subaltern studies because it challenges underlying assumptions regarding the "historical"-assumptions largely inherited from studies of the nineteenth- century bildungsroman, in which subjects are deined by their place in history. Unlike the bildungsroman, Dalit texts posit a model for the narrative construction of the subject that does not rely on the category of historical knowledge and the historical event. By introducing the terms eventfulness and unreading, I argue that the Dalit text challenges the putative relation between history and the narrative recovery of self. Dalit writing therefore creates a realism whose origins lie not in the bourgeois historicism of the European novel but in the humanism of a protest literature. (TJG)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-591
Number of pages17
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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