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You Rendered Me Invisible: Occlusion of Caste in Indian English Fiction

  • Date Submitted: 09/24/2011 11:25 AM
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Vijayalakshmi Nair,

HOD, Dept. of English,

Burhani College of Com. & Arts,

Nesbit Road, Mazagaon,

Mumbai 400010.

Mobile:   9930316898 email id: viji.rn@gmail.com

You Rendered Me Invisible: The Occlusion of Caste in Indian English Fiction

      “It will not be denied, I think, that until V.P.Singh decided to implement the Mandal Commission Report, caste had no place in the narrative milieu of the secular self. It was not that caste was ignored but, a certain opacity was nevertheless always attached - … - to it.”

      Vivek Dharaeshwar, “Caste and the Secular Self”

Academic discourse in the last decade has focused its attention on the assertive apathy or evasive indifference that caste has received in Indian English fiction. This has not gone unnoticed by the academia. Scholars like Dilip M. Menon,   Vivek Dhareshwar and others have time and again commented upon the fact   that Indian English fiction, since its emergence in the late nineteenth century to the present, has shied away from dealing with issues related to caste in any significant manner.   This occlusion has the possible outcome of being indifferent to or doing away altogether of a central fact of Indian society – a fact that is ‘so present and yet so invisible.’   Considering the circumstances under which English language was introduced in India, and the appropriation of the language by the elite of the country for the so-called progressive and nationalistic purposes, this does not come as a surprise. In Dhareshwar’s words, English, being the language of modern subjectivity, has allowed caste to be approached only at one remove, as something restricted to the domain of the vernacular (ibid).

This paper is an attempt to explore how Indian   English fiction   has systematically   occluded the treatment of caste   as if caste were, to borrow Clifford Greetz’ phrase, an “experience-distance” concept (Greetz, of course, treats caste as an example of “experience-near” concept for...

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