Pollution and purity
Caste-based discrimination and the mobilisation of Dalit sameness
in The politics of identity
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Since the late 1990s, Dalit (‘Untouchable’) activists have sought to respond to and contest caste-based discrimination by significantly expanding the scope of Dalit sameness. The idea of a shared, expansive Dalit identity beyond local or national contexts has allowed both for a global layer of activism to develop and for formerly disparate groups or communities to affiliate themselves with the cause against casteist perceptions of pollution, hierarchy and status. Consequently, Dalit identity to some—especially Indian activists long committed to its realisation and relevance—turns into an increasingly ambiguous and evasive subject position, while others relate to it is a novel, enabling nodal point for communal belonging and for contesting entrenched forms of marginalisation. In sum, these developments, nonetheless, equal acts of opposition and resistance. Drawing on interviews with Dalit activists in India, Nepal and the UK, the chapter explores how the above reformulation of Dalit sameness, on the one hand, affects the possibility to speak of a singular envisioning of transcending casteism and, on the other, destabilises established certainties regarding what pollution and purity signify.

The politics of identity

Place, space and discourse

Editors: Christine Agius and Dean Keep

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