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Caste and the Outcaste. Does the Study of Subaltern Caste Formations Still Matter?


· Nicolas Jaoul Iris (Aubervilliers, France)


07/26 | 16:10-16:30 UTC+2/CEST


What can the multiplicity of jatis among the subalterns contain as knowledge of Dalit social pasts ? The issue has been neglected from all sides. The Dumontian anthropological discourse has interpreted the replication of caste structures among Dalits as a sign of cultural consensus to the detriment of historical problematisation. Subaltern Studies' attempts to rethink social history from below through vernacular idioms, also failed to adress the question beyond its own focus on alternationalist discourse, revealing the weakness of its Gramscian commitments. Even the Ambedkarite emancipatory discourse which has focused on Dalit identity as an encompassing category working towards the dissolution of castes, failed to adress the multiplicity of Dalit identities, often leaving the social past to mythological narratives by Dalit jati organisations. After recalling previous attempts to combine Ethnoraphy and History in the field of caste studies, I will bring up some methodological insights gained from my current fieldwork on a Dalit mythological character (Supatch Sudarshan) among sanitation labour migrants who spread to several states from Uttar Pradesh, and whose study has enabled me to enquire into these pasts.