Episode 1 – Dalit Feminism

About the Guest – Sunaina Arya is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Philosophy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, completing a dissertation on feminist philosophy from a Dalit perspective. Her area of research includes social and political philosophy of B R Ambedkar, philosophy and psychology, and the philosophy of social sciences. She has co-edited the book Dalit Feminist Theory: A Reader, which was published by Routledge (2020). She received an Honourable Mention in the Bluestone Rising Scholar Prize (2019) by The Heller School of Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Massachusetts. She is a part of Global Dalit Change Makers, an initiative of the India China Institute, The New School, New York City. Arya has been a resource person for lectures, public talks, workshops, podcasts and webinars in India and abroad. Her recent publications include ‘Dalit or Brahmanical Patriarchy? Rethinking Indian Feminism’ (Feb 2020). She is currently co-editing a special issue of CASTE: A Global Journal on Social Exclusion published by Brandeis University, USA.
She tweets at – Su_philos

About the Podcast– The Quest SLR is here with UNWIRED, our podcast series, where we discuss on varied issues. On our first episode, Ipsita Ghanshala speaks with Sunaina Arya, a senior research fellow at JNU.
In this episode, we try to understand Dalit feminism, the importance of caste identity. Representation issues in media, identity, education and much more.

Listen on –

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  1. A treat to listen to the speaker’s views, hinting on so many poignant topics. Also congratulations to the anchor for taking a lot of caution during the discussion.

  2. Udai Ratna Arun

    Firstly it was a good talk. Few points I want to highlight:
    Its an insightful thinking to connect the Thesis of Ambedkar on Genesis of caste where he raises the problem of ‘surplus woman’,with the current feminist perspective.
    The problem of sex workers was raised by even Ambedkar when he visited Byculla(Kamatipura area) Bombay and asks Dalit women to leave the undignified profession where the body & soul both are served. So,being independent women doesn’t mean doing any kind of job but Ambedkar attaches virtue like dignity to the work.
    The dichotomy of ‘Experience’ and ‘Theory’ is much celebrated and should have been discussed in detail as it also forms the larger questions of ethics like: Who can theorize? Or like how Gopal Guru puts ,Caste being an epistemic issue and the story of social sciences till now is the story of ‘Theoretical Brahmins’ and ‘Empirical Shudras’,where Brahmins make theory and Dalits join Social studies courses or write poem on their experiences.(The Cracked Mirror)
    I was flummoxed by Gayatri Spivak Chakravarti’s reaction as by not talking about caste or Brahminism by Brahmins will not help in bringing the change in society as the problem lies in the Ethics of Representation and If Upper caste remain silence on their oppression,the transformation of society will keep on delaying. And even Sunaina points out that we need collective effort,so how does the silence of Brahmins on Caste issues helps? (Also discussed in The Cracked mirror).

    • dear udai,
      thank you for your close listening to the podcast. and, the context i mentioned was prof spivak had chosen to listen when a dalit person is speaking, while the world knows her engagement with the caste question in south asian continent.
      hope you see the difference now.

  3. First of all I would like to congratulate you for this thought provoking discussion. It is very insight full. Though, feminism as a conceptual category seems to be part of Brahminical discourse because of homogeneity of upper caste identity. Your contribution as a Dalit Feminist would be definitely a paradigm shift in this discourse. I am eagerly waiting for your next book. I hope that I’ll see you soon.

  4. Asifa Zunaidha

    Congratulations to SLR for hosting such a thought provoking podcast. Sunaina’s research is very significant and it is refreshing to hear her views on the importance and centrality of caste in Dalit women’s lives in India. It is indeed the right time, historically speaking, to raise the need for intersectionality in feminist theory and practice in India. The host has also made a genuine effort to discuss issues of caste privilege with honesty and compassion. I hope more people hear such insightful discussions and increase their awareness of the critical issues of the society and work towards finding a collective solution in our day-to-day lives.

  5. Swmkwr Basumatary

    Taking care of the constitutional validity senior researcher Sunaina Arya and co-editor of the program Ipsita Ghansala are both doing a very commendable job regarding the social cause of the country. Finding the root cause of social issues and working for delivery of the highest justice are undoubtedly praiseworthy. Such human resources who work tirelessly for social causes of the nation are insufficiently rare.

    Therefore you need to be promoted on wider platforms, break the domestic walls of the nation and make your voice loud and clear for the greater interest of all society.

    Advocate S. Basumatary
    Delhi High Court.

    • Dear Adv S Basumatary,

      thank you for your encouraging words. am very hopeful that our lawyers will also take this cause of Dalit feminism forward and work to include intersectional perspective in our legal frameworks!

      with best regards,
      sunaina arya

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