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

A+| A| A-

Talking Back at Brahminical Knowledge Systems

There is a systematic erasure of Dalit students’ negotiations with the erasure of anti-caste history and traditions in the school curriculum, stigmatising Dalit students at every stage.

Children are deliberately kept away from knowledge about societal agonies. However, does every student feel equal within this set-up? A Dalit childs primary experience of the erasure and subordination of her communitys historical legacy and contributions happens in school, a public place. Studying at a prominent international school in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, I witnessed this erasure first-hand. The school proclaimed to practise the message of Jesus, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, yet there was no conversation on caste sensitisation. Absolute silence and complicity regarding caste awareness within the school felt like an erasure. Even when caste was mentioned, it was done in haste, as a tokenistic gesture. The school supervisor once tried to engage the audience before a guest was meant to arrive by asking the question, Who is the father of the Constitution? The audience went silent as if there was no answer. I knew the answer, but I had no confidence to speak, making me realise how the Brahminical political system wins when Dalit students do not choose to talk back.

In Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black (1989), bell hooks argues that talking back at something or some authority means asserting yourself and reclaiming your lost voice. hooks realised how the denial of talking back within her household meant that she was meant to behave as a girl child does, obsequiously. Maya Angelou, who lost her voice to guilt at age five since she blamed herself for the death of her rapist, regained her voice by talking back. Angelous talking back was most powerful through her poem, Still I Rise: You may write me down in history // With your bitter,  twisted lies, // You may trod me in the very dirt // But still, like dust, Ill rise. 

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


To gain instant access to this article (download).

INR 59

(Readers in India)

$ 6

(Readers outside India)

Published On : 9th Mar, 2024

Support Us

Your Support will ensure EPW’s financial viability and sustainability.

The EPW produces independent and public-spirited scholarship and analyses of contemporary affairs every week. EPW is one of the few publications that keep alive the spirit of intellectual inquiry in the Indian media.

Often described as a publication with a “social conscience,” EPW has never shied away from taking strong editorial positions. Our publication is free from political pressure, or commercial interests. Our editorial independence is our pride.

We rely on your support to continue the endeavour of highlighting the challenges faced by the disadvantaged, writings from the margins, and scholarship on the most pertinent issues that concern contemporary Indian society.

Every contribution is valuable for our future.