ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

The Deviant Bodies, Cultural Oppression and Dominant Social: Configuration of Self-harm in Academic Space


Bhoi DHANESWAR - University of Edinburgh, Centre for South Asian Studies, Edinburgh, United Kingdom


18 – Deviant Bodies, Prohibited Territories and Academia in South Asia


Caste configured not only in the  social spaces but also in the academic spaces. The dominant social has marked a line between the dominant (upper castes) and dominated (Dalits) social (groups). Starting from the access of social resources to cultural spaces that appropriated and snatched by the dominant social, they colonised all spheres of Dalits’ life in Indian society (Guru and Sarukkai 2019). The caste delineates the boundaries between the dominant and dominated social within every social relation. Caste is also a social reality that plays a dominant role in the life of those born in its frame. Caste secures probabilities, opportunities and outcomes in the life of the person who was born into the system and at the same time it also prohibits others to access basic resources, means of livelihood and even education. Similarly, it prohibits the Dalits to access, participate and perform in the university space. Breaking the frontiers of the prohibited land, the Dalits who entered the academic space, they ran through a programmed ‘caste discrimination process’ (Sukumar 2022), where they faced cultural oppression, psychological pains and dealt with corporal and mental wounds that made the Dalit body & mind deviant and hostile. This is a qualitative empirical study of eastern India which reveals how Dalit body’s screaming for liberation. Further, it claims that the metal scar that the Dalit psyche endures during caste discrimination has led to the ‘self-harm’ of Dalit body.