31 March, 2023


Bid To Break Stereotyping Of Dalit Literature

By expressbuzz.com –

CHENNAI: An anthology of literary works by Dalit writers, consisting of poems, plays, short stories, articles, essays and excerpts from novels, was released in the city on Tuesday. The anthology, the editors of the work say, is aimed at breaking the misplaced stereotyping of Dalit literature as belligerent, rabble-rousing and angry.

Titled ‘The Oxford India Anthology of Tamil Dalit Writing’, and published by the Oxford University Press, it joins similar efforts of the imprint in Malayalam and Telugu. The anthology features 78 works by 41 Dalit writers handpicked by editors Ravikumar and R Azhagarasan.

The writers range from Iyothee Das, MC Rajah and Rettamalai Srinivasan to more recent ones like Imayam, P Sivakami, Ravikumar and Thol Thirumavalavan.

“In the wider community Dalit writing suffers from stereotyping as angry and belligerent. This is because of the works that have been picked for translation. This anthology is aimed at breaking that stereotype and demonstrating the wealth of creative and personal expression that has existed for long among writers from the community,” said Ravikumar.

He added that care had been taken to focus on works and not writers. “We have made no concessions in literary quality just because the writers are Dalits. We invite readers to discern the quality of the works, we believe they will quite easily stand the test of scrutiny,” he said.

Ravikumar, a widely recognised Dalit ideologue and former MLA, stressed the need to bring the fresh perspectives of Dalit literature into the mainstream. “Tamil literature is now suffering from a certain stagnation. There are more reprints and collections of old writing than anything else. Only a few Dalit writers display the verve, but this is not translating into a larger readership,” he said.

The anthology was released by senior journalist S Viswanathan, who presented the first copies to academic P Dayanandan and writers Vasantha Surya and Indira Parthasarathy. Editors Ravikumar, R Azhagarasan and Oxford University Press’s Mini Krishnan were among those who took part in the function. The volume is priced at `595.

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