Monday, November 26, 2012

(Un) Making Literature: Dalit Literary Imagination
Dr. P. Kesava Kumar

  In India, English is a privileged language .It is the legacy of colonialism. It is the language of bureaucracy. In post independent India, it is still enjoys the power of elite. It is the language of institutionalization of academics. Colonialism, Modernity, rationality, western thinking, technicality, printing, writing culture and ‘Indian literature’ are having convergence with English. The intellectual expressions are borrowed from English thinking. The literary expressions are of natives too shaped by English studies, though they expressed in vernaculars. The Indian literature in vernaculars is defined in western literary genres. This may be witnessed with literary forms emerged within print forms such as short story, novel, and drama. As an active recipients of English, the literary expression of Indian intellectuals who are happened to be social elite as a nationalists/nativists are invariably in the boundaries of western literary canons. The literature influenced by Marxism made an attempt to redefine literature from materialistic and class perspective, but it also confined to the already established structures of literature. The post -Marxist, post-structural, post-modern, cultural studies and post-colonial frameworks to certain extent broadens the canvas of literature/culture and its functions. The marginalized/submerged life, literature and knowledge systems are bringing into a view. This trajectory has not only demolished the celebrated literary/cultural canons but changed the very discourse of literature. As a result the nature and function of English studies too significantly changed. In this historical and theoretical backdrop, literature viewd from a dalit perspective may change the very idea of literature and so the English studies.

As his engagement with post-colonial literature (decolonizing literature) the world known Kenyan writer Ngugi determined to write in his own language Gikuyu rather continuing in English. Orhan Pamukh, Turkish novelist who won the noble prize for literature has categorically made a point in his Noble prize speech that we are far away from literary centers but not away from literature. These acts have implications for literature and English studies.

In India, from early nineties, Dalit literature has emerged as a new literary genre by contesting the western literary frameworks and local vernacular literatures of both brahminical and Marxist literatures. The orality, authenticity, lived experiences, cultural rootedness, ethics of politics, shared experiences and struggles of liberation of dalit literature are resisting the canons of literature of both English studies and vernacular knowledge systems. Dalit literature has epistemologically, ethically and politically providing a new ground for literature. It demands not for inclusion of this literature in English studies but compelling us to see what constitutes literature.

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