The everyday concerns of Dalit women are frequently overlooked in discourses about the emancipation of Dalits from Brahminical hegemony in favor of issues deemed weightier, such as reform ideology, caste conflicts, and political power struggles. The micro-politics of the sexual division of labour in Dalit households, with its corrosive effects on the well-being and self-perception of Dalit women, has remained side-lined. Even when discussed with reference to caste and gender intersectionality, the labour consigned to Dalit women is spoken of in additive terms to explicate their “double oppression” or victimisation through sexual exploitation at the hands of upper caste men. In the light of these arguments, this article examines the depiction of “labouring bodies” in select autobiographical narratives by Dalit women translated into English, to enunciate the physical and psychological subjugation these women endure in the name of labour, which gets subsumed as obligation due to brahminical ideology. Taking Meena Gopal’s argument (2014) as a point of departure, that women’s domestic labour, from marginalised communities in particular, is rendered invisible and undervalued in the mechanistic distinction of the world of work into categories like formal and informal, market and domestic labour, this article attempts to render the agency and voice of these women by bringing to attention the instances where Dalit women have voiced dissent against wage disparity, abjectness and devaluation of their domestic or non-domestic labour, the burden of providing for familial food/sustenance, and the tendency of their own family and community members to deny their personhood by treating them primarily as useful machines. These issues emerge as significant sources of friction within the Dalit household. The article also examines the representation of the domestication of Dalit women in the selected texts.
"Labour as Violence in Dalit Households: Reading Autobiographical Narratives by Dalit Women,"
Journal of International Women's Studies: Vol. 24:
6, Article 5.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol24/iss6/5