Shailaja Paik, “The Vulgarity of Caste: Dalits, Sexuality, and Humanity in Modern India” (Stanford UP, 2022)

Shailaja Paik’s book The Vulgarity of Caste: Dalits, Sexuality, and Humanity in Modern India (Stanford UP, 2022) is an important reflection on the question of Dalit women and their sexuality question. Through the performance of Tamasha, Paik has relooked into the lifeworld of Dalit women and has argued about what the performance of Tamasha means in Dalit women’s everydayness rather than conventionally understanding it through a moral lens of good vs bad. The framework of ‘manuski’ and ‘assli’ reflects upon the Dalit women quest to transgress ascribed identities and it reinforces Dalit performance as a weapon for the weak. The work is a watershed as it re-centers Dalit woman’s experiences in the sex-gender-caste complex, rather than looking at them as passive recipients of male-centered Dalit assertion.

Shailaja Paik is an Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati. She is Taft’s Distinguished Professor of History and Affiliate Faculty in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Asian Studies. Her research lies at the intersection of fields concerning Modern South Asia, Dalit Studies, Women’s Studies, and oral History to mention a few. 

Kalyani Kalyani is a sociologist and currently teaches at School of Arts and Sciences in Azim Premji University at Bengaluru.

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