Seminar: "Anti-caste Communitas and Out-caste Experience: Space, Body, Displacement, and Writing" by Dr. Dickens Leonard
This paper (a part of my PhD work and a draft to be published in an edited volume with Routledge) significantly wishes to unpack how caste subjugates and marginalizes the body, location, and migration of close to one fifth of human in India. Firstly, using material made available through recent historical research on indentured labour in the colonial period; Secondly, by comparing the travel reports of Gandhi and Ambedkar; and finally, by analyzing the work of Iyothee Thass (1845-1914), a Tamil-Dalit intellectual who predates Ambedkar and Gandhi, which foregrounds a caste-free imaginary in the vernacular (hithertounderstudied): I submit that displaced subjects, say Dalits, who are perennially positioned out-of-space (outcaste), search for an imagined home continuously. However violent the displacement and/or disembodiment be, they exscribe a home ‘in-place’ and ‘in-time,’ critically and creatively through writing and practice, conceiving anti-caste values. This is conceptualised as communitas of/from the outside. Contemporary critical theory that foregrounds experience as a pre-requisite to emancipatory socio-political thought is discussed as an inevitable dialogue/discourse, as it emanates from the subaltern-ized Other. Thus, the presentation would particularly study Iyothee Thass’ text Indhira Dhesa Sarithiram (History of Indhirar Country) to explore how anti-castethought uses interpretation as a method to intertwine ideas of experience and thought, so as to produce a critical and creative idea of casteless-ness.
Bio (Dr. Dickens Leonard M):
Dickens Leonard presently teaches at the Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Hyderabad. He was awarded PhD from University of Hyderabad for the thesis titled Casteless Community (2017) on the 19th century Tamil intellectual Iyothee Thass and Tamil Buddhism. Ha largely works on caste, religion and culture. He was formerly DAAD-visiting PhD fellow (2016) at the Centre for Modern Indian Studies, Georg-August University, Goettingen, Germany. He has published on anti-caste intellectual thought, print culture, and also on contemporary Tamil films in internationally renowned journals.