Beyond the Rhetoric of Belonging: Arundhati Roy and the Dalit Perspective
AbstractThis essay proposes a reflection on Arundhati Royâ€™s recent involvement in Dalit politics. In particular, it addresses the polemic letter to Roy presented by a group of Dalit intellectuals after the publication of a new edition of Ambedkarâ€™s Annihilation of Caste (originally written in 1936), which includes an introductory essay by Roy. The critiques against Roy interrogate the right to take part in public life without being able to claim â€œentitlementâ€ or â€œauthenticity.â€ By discussing the debates over rights to speak and to â€œrepresent,â€ this essay offers a reflection on the meaning of a politics of emancipation that falls neither into identity politics nor into appropriating the voice of the marginalised. Instead, this essay proposes a reappraisal of the value of an â€œethics of identificationâ€ through which outsiders can assume the standpoint of the oppressed and be able to tell experiences that they have not lived through. Beyond the rhetoric of belonging, the exchange between Roy and her Dalit critics suggests an ethics of identification that emphasises the continuing relevance of expressing social consciousness and communication across sites of struggle for social justice.
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