Beyond ‘Dull and Sterile Routines’?: Dalits Organizing for Social Change inTamil Nadu

, by  Cultural Dynamics, GORRINGE Hugo

Drawing on fieldwork with Dalit movements inTamil Nadu,this article focuses on often neglected aspects of activism. A pervasive lack of resources has rendered Tamil Dalit movements overly incident-sensitive: reacting to caste atrocities rather than pursuing a positive agenda. Movement leaders thus concentrate on community-building by means of exclusive rhetoric that is, at times, divorced from the day-to-day concerns of their constituents. High-profile events and fiery speeches attract attention and foster collective identity, but are only part of a wider struggle in which the more mundane and everyday aspects of struggle—establishing strong networks, chasing up officials, seeking alternate sources of employment and so on—may be most effective. Changing caste relations, it is argued, requires continual commitment rather than episodic protest. This challenges what we mean by ‘movement success’ and ‘activism’.

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Cultural Dynamics 22(2) 105–119