Subalternity and Religion: The Prehistory of Dalit Empowerment in South Asia, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Subalternity and Religion

The Prehistory of Dalit Empowerment in South Asia, 1st Edition

By Milind Wakankar


216 pages

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This book explores the relationship between mainstream and marginal or subaltern religious practice in the Indian subcontinent, and its entanglement with ideas of nationhood, democracy and equality. With detailed readings of texts from Marathi and Hindi literature and criticism, the book brings together studies of Hindu devotionalism with issues of religious violence.

Drawing on the arguments of Partha Chatterjee, Martin Heidegger and Jacques Derrida, the author demonstrates that Indian democracy, and indeed postcolonial democracies in general, do not always adhere to Enlightenment ideals of freedom and equality, and that religion and secular life are inextricably enmeshed in the history of the modern, whether understood from the perspective of Europe or of countries formerly colonized by Europe. Therefore subaltern protest, in its own attempt to lay claim to history, must rely on an idea of religion that is inextricably intertwined with the deeply invidious legacy of nation, state, and civilization. The author suggests that the co-existence of acts of social altruism and the experience of doubt born from social strife - ‘miracle’ and ‘violence’ - ought to be a central issue for ethical debate. Keeping in view the power and reach of genocidal Hinduism, this book is the first to look at how the religion of marginal communities at once affirms and turns away from secularized religion.

This important contribution to the study of vernacular cosmopolitanism in South Asia will be of great interest to historians and political theorists, as well as to scholars of religious studies, South Asian studies and philosophy.

Table of Contents

Preface Part 1: Introduction: The Question of a Prehistory 1. Subalternity at the Cusp: Limits and Openings in the Dalit Critique 2. Moral Rite before Myth and Law: Death in Comparative Religion 3. The Time of Having-Found (God): Languages of Dalit Hearsay Part 2: The Vicissitudes of Historical Religion 4. The Anomaly of Kabir: Historical Religion in Dwivedi’s Kabir (1942) 5. The Pitfalls of a Dalit Theology: Dr Dharmvir’s Critique of Dwivedi (1997) 6. System and History in Rajwade’s Grammar for the Dnyaneswari (1909) Part 3: The Prehistory of Historical Religion 7. The Suspension of Iconoclasm: Myth and Allegory in the Time of Deities 8. Miracle and Violence: The Allegorical Turn in Kabir, Dnyaneswara, and Tukaram 9. Deity and Daivat: The Transfiguration of the Folk in Tukaram

About the Author

Milind Wakankar teaches in the Department of English, SUNY Stony Brook, USA. He received his PhD in English and Comparative Literature and Postcolonial theory from Columbia University. His current work involves a monograph on Ramchandra Shukla and a critical commentary on the Dnyaneswari.

About the Series

Intersections: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories

This series is concerned with three kinds of intersections or conversations: first, across cultures and regions, an interaction that postcolonial studies have emphasized in their foregrounding of the multiple sites and multi-directional traffic involved in the making of the modern; second, across time, the conversation between a mutually constitutive past and present that occurs in different times and places; and third, between colonial and postcolonial histories, which as theoretical positions have very different perspectives on the first two ‘intersections’ and the questions of intellectual enquiry and expression implied in them. These three kinds of conversations are critical to the making of any present and any history. Thus the new series provides a forum for extending our understanding of core issues of Human society and its self-representation over the centuries.

While focusing on Asia, the series is open to studies of other parts of the world that are sensitive to cross-cultural, cross-chronological and cross-colonial perspectives. The series invites submissions for single-authored and edited books by young as well as established scholars that challenge the limits of inherited disciplinary, chronological and geographical boundaries, even when they focus on a single, well-recognized territory or period.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General