Forging new communities: Gendered childhood through the lens of caste

No Thumbnail Available
Sreenivas, Deepa
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
This article focuses on the narratives of two dalit women which offer new, enabling imaginings of community that open up radical possibilities for rethinking questions of childhood and gender. These texts turn a critical gaze on an upper caste feminist practice and the discourses of childhood, schooling and emancipation that are tied to it. Childhood has been hegemonically represented as a state of innocence and vulnerability and is marked off from the world of adult anxieties and responsibilities. Such representations are generally implicated in abstract, internationalist notions of child rights and remain disengaged from the historical contexts that shape children's lives. The dominant discourse of the girl child does not problematize the field qualifying as childhood; instead, it proposes that the female child has been excluded from the same. The cause of this exclusion is identified as gender discrimination, reinforcing the primacy of sexual difference and allowing it to subsume all other forms of differences - caste, class, region or community - that exist among children. The article argues that these two narratives disrupt the neat separation between the modernizing nation/ emancipatory self and the regressive community. As each narrative takes us through the life of a dalit girl, it articulates a critique of gender as a category abstracted from material circumstances that constitute women's lives. Gender in these narratives emerges as complexly intermeshed with caste and community. © The Author(s) 2010.
community, dalit feminism, dalit narratives, girl child, marginalization, norm, sexual violence, subaltern
Feminist Theory. v.11(3)