Reconsidering Untouchability: Chamars and Dalit History in North India

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Indiana University Press, 2011 - History - 272 pages
2 Reviews

Often identified as leatherworkers or characterized as a criminal caste, Chamars of North India have long been stigmatized as untouchables. In this pathbreaking study, Ramnarayan S. Rawat shows that in fact the majority of Chamars have always been agriculturalists, and their association with the ritually impure occupation of leatherworking has largely been constructed through Hindu, colonial, and postcolonial representations of untouchability. Rawat undertakes a comprehensive reconsideration of the history, identity, and politics of this important Dalit group. Using Dalit vernacular literature, local-level archival sources, and interviews in Dalit neighborhoods, he reveals a previously unrecognized Dalit movement which has flourished in North India from the earliest decades of the 20th century and which has recently achieved major political successes.

 

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Appreciable and great work.

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History navigates the societies in future and if that is unfounded, the crises and catastrophes it raises seem natural. Indian history has been an easy victim of all such efforts from the times of Islamic traveller-cum-historians, Imperial historians, National historians, Hindu historians, Marxist historians to very recent Subaltern brand of historians. They created historical narratives, documentaries and myths to further their ideological and intellectual persuits, assert dominance and continue privileged malpractices; others simply followed them and referred mindlessly to substantiate their follies. Dalit life and people were most of the times missing altogether from such mysteries of historical nature or if any how they come to find some place, it was usually ridden with colour of castiest perversion and even colonial historians and ethnographers were easy trap to such fallacies and also because it was strategically beneficial to their interests, served best that way. The great attributes of a great civilization- systematically deprive and conspire to keep a great part of its population away from literacy and accessing so-call great pieces of knowledge–also helped in maintaining non-interference of Dalit and Shudra communities from actively engage in and to authenticate the various spectres of Indian History.
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Contents

Untouchable Boundaries
1
The Crime of Cattle Poisoning
24
Chamar Peasants and Agricultural Laborers
54
3 Is the Leather Industry a Chamar Enterprise? The Making of Leatherworkers
85
Chamar Histories and Politics
120
The Making of an Achhut Identity and Politics 192756
155
Overcoming Domination The Emergence of a New Achhut Identity
185
Statistical Tables
191
Glossary
201
Notes
205
Bibliography
235
Index
261
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About the author (2011)

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Ramnarayan S. Rawat is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Delaware.

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