Lifeworld of Dalit Women - an Emerging Counterpublic

Archana Singh
G. B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad

The hegemonic structure continues to be a serious issue of concern worldwide. A harsh truth about Indian society is the social exclusion of a group of people on the lines of caste and gender, by a few socially and economically powerful people, who force them to become subaltern. This social exclusion is deeply intertwined in our social construction which protects and promotes exclusion through institutional programs and helps to sustain it.

This paper is an attempt to understand the life-world of Dalit women (subalterns of subaltern) in the terms of embodiment and situatedness of the subject in a pre-given situation. I am trying to document how they are trying to transform their life-world (a dynamic horizon) in a counter public. Though the life-world is the subjective reality, which she forms under the condition of her specific circumstances, but sometimes, how this life-world help to attain class consciousness and to resist and subvert the hegemonic discourse. The question is whether this life-world reduces individual Dalit women to docile bodies or objects of power, or transforms it as subjects with the capacity to resist and subvert.

 I wish to examine the intersubjectivity (the sharing of subjective states by two or more individuals) in the context of Dalit women lifeworld, to nurture of emancipatory potential to address marginality and resistance.

I see the present paper as an intervention in a broader discussion regarding the emergence of Dalit women life-world as Subalterns counter publics (Nancy Fraser). Through their life-world, these Dalit women are creating a parallel discursive arena where the members of subordinated social groups invent and circulate counter discourse to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interest and needs. They are using various strategies to reject the role of victim in which they are so often cast. For this they are recreating and rupturing dominant social scripts – those that label them as victims. I will also try to analyse their articulation of exclusion through alternative discourses—not merely as a corrective to the gaps or erasures, but as distortions in dominant discourses of hegemony.