top of page

Paper 38

Understanding the Sexually Cast(ed) Bodies: Caste-Gender Intersectional Marginalisation

Ms Natasha Negi

PhD Scholar, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India


The Dalit feminist standpoint theory asserts that the issues of Dalit women need to be raised as they were ignored both in the Indian feminist struggle and in the Dalit struggle led primarily by Dalit men. My research makes an in-depth study of the dual marginalisation of the Dalit body on the basis of caste and gender. In the research undertaken in the field, the analytical lens of desire has been used to unfold the progression of caste and gender hierarchies. My paper aims to highlight the need for an intersectional study of the concerns of desire and old age with respect to Dalit women. I particularly aim to understand and address the reasons for the sexually cast(ed) social identity forced upon Dalit women even in the 21 st century. I will use literature as a tool to analyse how caste-gender dual identities lead to multiple bodily marginalisations of Dalit women. The paper will build on the literary analysis of the novel The Glory of Sri Sri Ganesh written by Mahasweta Devi. The novel was published originally in Bengali in 1981 and later in its English translation in 2003.

The novel The Glory of Sri Sri Ganesh discusses the ground reality of caste-gender oppression in post-independence rural India. It is a multilayered narrative of the socio-economic caste-class divide prevailing in rural independent India. In this work, the author Mahasweta Devi takes up the issues of agrarian land relations, inter-caste violence, so-called rural development, and particularly the position of women. The narrative primarily addresses the dual caste-gender oppression faced by Dalit women. The novel traces how the protagonist Lachhima, a Dalit woman, becomes the object of desire for an upper-caste landowner and is trapped in an unwanted sexual relationship with him as his kept-woman. The text helps us to highlight how young Dalit women are oppressed as desired bodies by upper-caste men. I want to focus on how the bodily oppression multiplies when Dalit women grow old and are left to survive as undesired, outcast bodies. In the paper, I aim to focus on the gerontological concerns regarding Dalit women through the protagonist and other Dalit women characters. Thus, the textual analysis will add to the research undertaken from the point of view of desire as a concern. The research will also propose a new direction of gerontology to understand the intersectional, multiple marginalisation suffered by Dalit women.

I will use Michel Foucault’s concepts of biopolitics to discuss how the old body is treated as the discarded, outcast body, which is deemed useless to fulfil the purposes of the powerful. I will also apply the theories of intersectionality by Gopal Guru, Sharmila Rege, and Uma Chakravarti. In the paper, I aim to study and build the Dalit feminist standpoint as discussed by Gopal Guru and Sharmila Rege. I will also study and apply Uma Chakravarti’s concepts to understand the dual margianlisation of caste-gender. The paper will primarily observe the social issues and literary themes through theories of caste-gender intersectionality and body politics.

5 views0 comments
bottom of page