ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

‘Broken Steps of the Step-Well:’ Alienated Men in Ajay Navaria’s Short Stories


Gopinath Praseeda - Binghamton University, State University of New York, English, Binghamton, United States


35 – Postmodern Narratives of Caste and Indigeneity


This paper examines Ajay Navaria’s formal explorations as staging the disruption of the caste-class-gender order. The essay argues that Navaria’s stories carefully depict the fractured yet disruptive masculine subjectivities of young professional, urban Dalit man through its focus on embodied memory and bodily masculine practices. While the stories work within the Dalit literary tradition of “bearing witness,” they deliberately represent the transition from an “unfeasibility of subjecthood” of earlier Dalit writing (Ramachandran) to an assured, though riven, masculine subjecthood. The fractured, self-aware masculinities are never in danger of dissolution, rather come into themselves as they navigate between memories (both ancestral and personal) of brutal, dehumanizing oppression and the casual and hidden humiliations of the professional present. Paying special attention to multiple forms of gendered narration, the manipulation of the short story form, as well as the careful delineation of different forms of caste and class masculinity, this essay argues that Navaria’s short story form brings into being, even as it tracks, shifting masculinities of young male Dalit professionals. These fluid masculinities are constituted within the figurative and literal travels between rural Rajasthan and urban Delhi; the past and the present; the realist form and stream-of-consciousness;embodied space-time and visceral memory.