Nation with Discriminations: Literary Voices from the Subalterns
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First Published in 2013 by GNOSIS, New Delhi-110 016
Exploitation and subordination are innate human tendencies. From times immemorial, there has been hegemony of power, culture and gender in the universe. Discriminatory treatment of a vast global population has been justified on the basis of caste and colour. In most parts of Asia and Africa, this is the root for discrimination. According to UNICEF and Human Rights Watch, caste discrimination affects an estimated 250 million people worldwide. Discrimination is the detrimental treatment of an individual based on their membership in a certain group or category. It involves the actual behaviors toward groups such as excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to another group. They have been treated just like third-grade citizens. This bias and discriminatory treatments towards Marginal and subaltern groups affect growth of individuals, society and Nation as well.
The term ‘subaltern’ is used in postcolonial theory. Some thinkers use it in a general sense, to refer to marginalized groups and the lower classes, a person rendered without agency by his or her social status. Others, such as Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak use it in a more specific sense. She argues that:
“….subaltern is not just a classy word for oppressed, for Other, for somebody who's not getting a piece of the pie....In postcolonial terms, everything that has limited or no access to the cultural imperialism is subaltern- a space of difference. Now who would say that's just the oppressed? The working class is oppressed. It's not subaltern....Many people want to claim subalternity. They are the least interesting and the most dangerous. I mean, just by being a discriminated-against minority on the university campus, they don't need the word 'subaltern'...They should see what the mechanics of the discrimination are. They're within the hegemonic discourse wanting a piece of the pie and not being allowed, so let them speak, use the hegemonic discourse. They should not call themselves subaltern” (Spivak.1994).
Dalit Literature, Subaltern Literature or Marginal Literature are complex and controversial terms to explain. But commonly it may be called as ‘Literature of Oppressed’ as it is a literature of pain, suffering, agony and protest. It has emerged as a thought provoking, ever widening branch of literature in recent days. It deals with the oppression, suffering, psychological turmoil, ambers to overcome the indignities, shed off the backwardness, encompassing the world canvass comprising of the human values of love, aspirations, fulfillment of human needs and appeal to be treated as human being.
The words dalit, subaltern and marginal though complex and different terms refer commonly to the people who are oppressed and discriminated because of their caste, creed, culture, race, colour, gender or religion. So the literature dealing with such oppressed people should not be categorized as literature produced by those who belong to such category. It is not ‘castiest’ literature but human literature. It can be produced by anyone who believes in human values and dignities. This ‘Literature of Oppressed’ reflected the striving of such people to gain their self-respect, dignity as a human being. Even today in the 21st century they encounter the twin tragedy of social exclusion and violence. Even the most educated emit the venom of untouchability and treat them in a prejudiced way.
The question of subalterns made a host of literary scholars restless and compelled them to ponder over this. Many writers and scholars postulated their views in their own retrospective and tried to unearth the latent concept. This anthology Nation with Discrimination: Literary Voices from the Subalterns echoes this world ridden hegemony through the diverse intellectual and analytical studies of literature across the nation at the hands of multifaceted voices from the various colleges and universities.
The volume is an endeavour to bring before its readers the vast area that Dalit, Subaltern and Marginal Literature has traveled in its journey since beginning. The contributors seriously contemplated on the problems of the outcaste, downtrodden, enslaved and untouchables and urged to make them suitable equivalent with others so that they can join in mainstream of the socio-economic, cultural, modern and civilized society. The shackles of the social evils even in 21st century have not been broken. On paper we can remove untouchablity but the centuries old disgust is still practiced in the society. In order to remove all these shackles, the present intellectual and analytical studies of this literature across the nation at the hands of various colleges and universities scholars will surely help.