ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Oppressed, Backward, or Subaltern?

Revisiting Hardgrave’s The Nadars of Tamilnad

Robert L Hardgrave’s book titled The Nadars of Tamilnad (1969), a study of a caste in South India and the politics of self-assertion in the colonial and postcolonial period, is revisited. This book is read in light of discussions on subaltern studies and caste.

The author would like to dedicate this article to Ranajit Guha and Robert L Hardgrave Jr, both of whom passed away in 2023.

Can we defi ne a subaltern caste? To this question, we must have an idea of where to locate the subaltern. To Ranajit Guha (2009: 190), the pioneer fi gure of subaltern studies, the focus of the project was “the subaltern classes and groups constituting the mass of the labouring population and the intermediate strata in town and country— that is, the people.” The subaltern here are equated with the people, the masses, who do not fi nd representation as agents of their own destiny in either colonialist or nationalist historiographies. This is a remarkably heterogeneous grouping brought under the umbrella category of the subaltern. As David Hardiman (2023: 31) notes, the broad idea proposed by subaltern studies “could be applied regardless of the specifi c cultures of oppression of a given society.” David Ludden (2002: 15) says that “Subaltern Studies reinvented subalternity,” and he also supposes that “before 1985 no consensus defi nition of subalternity had emerged in the project” (Ludden 2002: 17).

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Published On : 22nd Mar, 2024

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