On Dalit Dreaming and Rebellious Joy

Published

In an issue dedicated to the pluriversal imaginaries our all-too-strong influence from the U.S. political ‘software’ prevents, it was crucial for us to address one massive blindspot of this model: caste. This is why we invited Vijeta Kumar and Shaista Aziz Patel to exchange by letters about their perspectives on Dalit resistance from the two distinct geographies of the Indian Subcontinent and the diaspora in the United States.

Dear Vijeta,

We are two caste-oppressed women, coming from very different contexts, here in a conversation today. Could you have imagined coming together 20 years ago?

To be able to come together to share our thoughts on caste and casteism in this very unkind world somehow feels like an act of rebellious joy.

How often are people from non-dominant castes understood to have anything to contribute to a conversation in a text picked up by theorists from different fields? This opportunity is quite precious for me. I am excited to see what we can tell here in words; I am even more excited about the silences we are collaborating on in our writing. All the ellipses, all the words that trail off into nothingness. This is the bond we are forming here through writing and refusing to write. And as I write this, Black feminist scholar Katherine McKittrick’s words ring loud in my ears:

The story asks that we live with the difficult and frustrating ways of knowing differentially. (And some things we keep to ourselves. They cannot have everything. Stop her autopsy). They cannot have everything.” (Dear Science and Other Stories, 2021)

We won’t tear open our flesh or that of our kin so that the reader can understand how genocidal caste violence has been for centuries. Let them Google things. They have cheered over and probed at our decaying and burnt flesh long enough.