ABSTRACT

While a considerable body of ethnographic work, sociological studies, even compelling fictional works on the transmutation of caste practices in diasporic Indian communities exists, by comparison, the scholarship reflects an under examination of narratives by diasporic Dalits themselves. Research has also not adequately scrutinised the insidious presence of Savarna hegemony in the wider caste-class networks that control the narratives of Indian identity, history and culture in the global context. The result is a marginalisation of the Dalit diaspora. The first part of this two-part paper, “Caste as Hidden Apartheid,” discusses the relative inconspicuousness of Dalit diaspora in academic discourse. Part two, “Dalit Literature, Dalit Diaspora and Life Narratives” examines Dalit diasporic writers’ enunciated representations of caste discrimination. This section suggests that many diasporic Indians from former Untouchable castes are hyperconscious of the caste stigma and wary of being ostracised. Often to their detriment, they resort to concealing their true identity or try to pass themselves off as upper-castes because of an internalised casteism. However, not all diasporic Dalits live a closeted life. A new form of anti-caste resistance based on transnational solidarity networks emerging at the international level is symptomatic of the radical mobilisation of diasporic Dalits worldwide. Diasporic Dalits are using dialectic tools in a whole constellation of blogs, web resources, online communities and social media platforms to articulate lived experiences, to relay accounts of discriminatory violence, to redress their historical obfuscation through the publication of researched articles, and for insertion of Dalit perspectives into contemporary debates. They are also using their digital platforms to wrest agency to articulate identity in a transnational frame. Thus, this paper also looks into the significance of virtual platforms in life narratives by Yashica Dutt and Thenmozhi Soundararajan.

KEYWORDS: caste networks, Indian diaspora, migration, identity, Dalit diaspora, Dalit life narratives, digital media, Dalit mobilisation