Contextualizing ‘Oppression’ in Babytai Kamble’s Autobiography The Prisons We Broke
Ms Saman Rizvi
Postgraduate Student, Centre for English Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru
University, New Delhi, India
The massive and overwhelming history of caste oppression in the Indian social structure has been endemic, subjecting a particular community (Dalit) to punitive atrocities and inhuman treatment since eons. The engendering of radical literary expressions and later, a genre; dedicated to documenting of inhuman, unimaginable and unfathomable situations of Dalit community has been an act of subversion. The coercive systemic oppression vested to the Dalit community made them bereft of holding a pen for centuries. However, literacy among Dalits acted as a most potent tool of emancipation and liberation from the ensnaring shackles of caste oppression and humiliation. The coercion faced by the hands of upper classes started being documented by the men of the community. However, the category of ‘gender’ complicates the position of Dalit women in the community, and, similarly, their experiences started finding ways of expression through writings. Dalit women tend to bear the brunt that is triple-folded, due to the ‘intersectionality’ of economic condition, gender and caste. Dalit women writers have made an attempt, through their autobiographies to raise voice against the multiple overlapping forces that have marginalized them since centuries. Baby Kamble’s The Prisons We Broke is one such autobiography that enables us to dive deeper into the consciousness of Dalit women and their life struggles, their community through their perspective. The paper attempts to ‘contextualize’ oppression that Dalit women are subjected to, through analysis of the literary genre of autobiography as a means of knowledge production and self-assertion, the paper focuses on the Dalit consciousness that is laid bare in Kamble’s text.
 ‘Intersectionality’ was coined by Professor Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989, when she published a paper in the University of Chicago Legal Forum titled “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex.” An intersectional approach shows the way that people’s social identities can overlap, creating compounding experiences of discrimination. Intersectional feminism centres the voices of those experiencing overlapping, concurrent forms of oppression in order to understand the depths of the inequalities and the relationships among them in any given context. (UN WOMEN,2) See full citation in Bibliography.