1st Edition

Subalternities in India and Latin America Dalit Autobiographies and the Testimonio

Edited By Sonya Surabhi Gupta Copyright 2022
    228 Pages
    by Routledge India

    228 Pages
    by Routledge India

    This volume presents a comparative exploration of Dalit autobiographical writing from India and of Latin American testimonio as subaltern voices from two regions of the Global South. Offering frames for linking global subalternity today, the chapters address Siddalingaiah’s Ooru Keri; Muli’s Life History; Manoranjan Byapari and Manju Bala’s narratives; and Yashica Dutt’s Coming Out as Dalit; among others, alongside foundational texts of the testimonio genre.

    While embedded in their specific experiences, the shared history of oppression and resistance on the basis of race/ethnicity and caste from where these subaltern life histories arise constitutes an alternative epistemological locus. The chapters point to the inadequacy of reading them within existing critical frameworks in autobiography studies.

    A fascinating set of studies juxtaposing the two genres, the book is an essential read for scholars and researchers of Dalit studies, subaltern studies, testimonio and autobiography, cultural studies, world literature, comparative literature, history, political sociology and social anthropology, arts and aesthetics, Latin American studies, and Global South studies.


    Sonya Surabhi Gupta


    Part I: Towards a Conceptual and Definitional Framework


    1.      The Touch of the Other: Testimonio and Autobiographical Writing in India and Latin America

    Francesca Denegri


    2.      Some Notes on the Testimonio  

    Jorge Fornet


    3.      The Testimonio in Latin America and India: Critical Contestations of the Collective Voice

    Kavita Panjabi


    4.      In Defense of the ‘Subaltern’: Tracing the Concept Through/Across South Asia and Latin America



    Part II: Autobiographies in the Pluriverse of Dalit Writing


    5.      Autobiography and the Defacement of the Self: Siddalingaiah’s Ooru Keri

    Shad Naved


    6.      Muli’s Life History as a Dalit testimonio

    Raj Kumar


    7.      Dalit Writing in Bangla: A Thematic Reading of Selected Narratives by Manoranjan Byapari and Manju Bala

    Sayantan Dasgupta


    8.      Opening the Self, or the Other? On the Emergence of Bahujan Self-narratives on New Media

    Shubham Solanki


    9.      Studying Caste Up: Yashica Dutt’s Coming Out as Dalit

    Purnachandra Naik


    Part III: Revisiting the Testimonio with Cross-Cultural Readings


    10.  At the Threshold of Literature: Testimonios after Menchú

    Vijaya Venkataraman


    11.  The Small Voice of History: Revisiting Biography of a Runaway Slave

    Sonya Surabhi Gupta


    12.  Resistance through Recipes: Locating Testimonial Aspects in Dalit and Chicana Food Narratives

    Grace Mariam Raju


    13.  Testimonio as a Repository of Subaltern Memory: Reading Women’s Narratives from Guatemala and India

    Smriti Handoo




    Sonya Surabhi Gupta is a professor of Latin American studies at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India.

    ‘This book presents an interesting comparative analysis —  broad and nuanced — between the already canonised Latin American testimonio and the autobiographical narratives of the Dalits, which, by overcoming the egocentricity of traditional autobiographical writing, are closer to testimonio as a literary genre, and record of historical memory and political involvement. In addition to similar experiences of exclusion, these essays highlight the differences: caste, diversity of languages, lack of recognition by the academia, poor dissemination. The volume creates bridges between both subaltern cultures, their narratives and imaginaries and their particular political activism, without simplistic homologations. The testimonial narrative has not disappeared, since the roots of exclusion remain; it has simply been transformed. Therein lies the importance of this book. It will be of immense interest to students of comparative literature, world literature, Latin American Studies and South Asian Studies.’

    Lucrecia Méndez de Penedo, Member of the Guatemalan Academy of Language and Professor and Researcher of Latin American Literature, Rafael Landívar University, Guatemala


    ‘This edited volume offers a much-needed scholarly account of the aesthetics and the politics of subaltern life in India and Latin America.  It, through a comparative canvass, opens up the possibility of an epistemology of the Global South. The cross-cultural context through which the volume proceeds acquires an emancipatory thrust and suggests the need to address the question of caste and race/ethnicity as the precondition for the realisation of a democratic social order.’   


    Gopal Guru, Editor of Economic & Political Weekly and Professor of Social and Political Theory, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India


    ‘This carefully composed collective volume builds an impressive literary bridge of solidarity in the Global South by linking the autobiographical genre of the Latin American ‘testimonio’ with the life-writings of the Indian Dalits — two important literary currents that convey the political and social resistance of subaltern individuals and their communities in an intensely personal and powerful way. Both currents are thoroughly explored in this book through their literary and intentional affinities and the manifold historical interconnections of mutual readings, translations, academic fields and theoretical findings. The examination of similar and different factors of intersectional discrimination, such as caste, enhances the awareness of the structural comparability of these writings and the urgency of mutual reflection. I am convinced that these interwoven South–South views, which engage in a fruitful exchange in this highly committed book, contribute to the urgently needed changes of perspectives in academic and epistemological terms.’


    Susanne Klengel, Professor of Latin American Literatures and Cultures, Institute of Latin American Studies, Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany


    ‘This important book speaks to the challenging effort to speak across languages and continents to common issues in the global south. It focuses on the powerful expression of marginalised peoples, whose self-writing is also a form of resistance to official invisibilisation.  Along the way, the book makes a substantial contribution to the ongoing discussion in both Dalit and testimonio studies, where putting the two together illuminates each in new and exciting ways.  The editor is to be commended for her work in bringing together an impressive group of scholars whose knowledge of many of the vernaculars reminds us that this kind of work too often languishes for lack of translation, and hence, lack of substantive analysis.’ 


    Debra A. Castillo, Past President, Latin American Studies Association; Emerson Hinchliff Professor of Hispanic Studies, Department of Comparative Literature, Cornell University, USA