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Abstract 45

“Caste in Academics: A Study of the Pitfalls of Culture in Govardhan Wankhede’s My Life: The Journey of a Dalit Sociologist

Mr Subhasish Barua

Assistant Professor of English at Nabagram Hiralal Paul College, Konnagar, West Bengal, India

Culture when it is manipulated by the mainstream section endorses the idea of a divisive politics that not only damages the society but also creeps into the field of study. By implementing a rhetoric of imbalance, elitist propaganda tries to categorise the culture of the margin as ignoble, undignified, and negligible. Thus, the privileged public tends to deny the Dalits any socio-cultural space. Neither do they have any genuine interest to share the domain of knowledge and learning with the Dalits nor do they feel any necessity to include the life and culture of the marginalised in the academic area. Consequently, Dalits do not find any reflection of their marginality in the existing paradigms of culture. Considering this discrimination as a fundamental problem obstructing the advancement of knowledge of Dalits, Wankhede suggests an alternate approach in My Life: The Journey of a Dalit Sociologist to articulate a steady critique of the predominant culture and to redefine culture to make it free from the sway of the sophisticated. Far away from the prevailing perception of the society, the Dalit account of culture embraces a humanitarian interest to liberate the exploited. As opposed to the monopolistic attitude of the learned people to hold academics under the influence of the intellectuality, Wankhede intends to penetrate the long history of rich Indian culture that thrives at the expense of the marginalised. He observes that an overall analysis of society would be incomplete without taking into account the culture of the ostracised. As a sociologist from below, Wankhede rests chiefly on establishing a symbiosis between life and culture that serves as a counter and/or meta-narrative exploring the facts of a Dalit’s life so long underestimated by the culture of the privileged. Social segregation has impacted largely the spirit of education. Despite its egalitarian credo, education is used by the upper castes to distribute knowledge unevenly and to exercise humiliation to enslave the Dalit minds. The materiality of caste and its everyday occurrences are not given proper attention in the mainstream cultural traditions; rather, caste, or to be more precise Dalit life, appears to be redundant in their discourse. On the contrary, Wankhede’s narrative not only focuses on the dominance and hypocrisy of the educated section but also evocatively demonstrates how this cultural disparity results in producing epistemological violence. Wankhede’s research shows the immediacy to develop solidarity to abolish the caste lines to make the production of knowledge free from the politics of knowledge and to make culture inclusionary and democratic.

Keywords: Academics, caste, culture, Dalit, discrimination, society

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