chapter  7
New identities, new demands
Pages 21

In our last chapter we looked at the way in which during the four decades between 1880 and 1920 women in India learned how to govern themselves in order to govern their families and others. In our examination we saw how these women started to use a form of asceticism to change and discipline their bodies in response to the needs of contemporary middle-class life and become governable, a practice of the self not imposed by the operation of law. One of the main outcomes of our discussion was to show that governmentality implied the relation of the self to the self. We also saw that governmentality covered a whole range of practices that constitute, define, organize and instrumentalize what individuals in their freedom can use in dealing with each other. This was a practice of self-fashioning undertaken by the subject to help him or her govern his or her family and-more than anything else-himself or herself. In essence, it was learning a form of self-discipline. In this chapter, we shall carry our discussion further into the first half of the

twentieth century. Throughout we shall seek to understand the movements among a group of Dalits. Meaning “broken” or “downtrodden,” the word came to be generally used in the 1980s for groups formerly referred to as untouchables, Scheduled or Depressed Castes (the expression “Scheduled Castes” is used in the Indian Constitution). We shall seek to understand how the Scheduled Castes tried to come to terms with mobile and reversible power relations both in the colonial and the nationalist eras. In this chapter and the next we shall consider this question about a group of Scheduled Castes known as the Chamar, from the North-West Provinces and, in the twentieth century, in the area called the United Provinces (UP, called Uttar Pradesh in Independent India). Our goal will be to understand their position in local north Indian society and to look at both the way their social and political environment evolved and their struggles through the years before the coming of Independence in 1947. We shall consider the way in which colonial discourses helped to objectify them, to analyze them and formulate the conditions of their existence to provoke a local Chamar response by what we shall call a series of subjugated knowledges. Subjugated knowledges, as we shall see, are kinds of knowledges that are

the product of deployments whose historical contents have been hidden in a

series of local discourses that have been hard to see and identify over many years. When we look at these subjugated knowledges and their historical content, it will enable us to reopen and rediscover the “ruptural effects of conflict and struggle” that both the pre-colonial and colonial order had been designed to disguise and make seem unapparent. Moreover, we shall seek to show that this whole set of knowledges has been “disqualified as inadequate to their task or insufficiently elaborated.” These are “naïve knowledges, located low down on the hierarchy, beneath the required level of cognition or scientificity.” It is only through the reappearance of these unqualified knowledges that the Chamar and other Scheduled Castes could begin to establish a new identity for themselves. Therefore, our goal will be to show that these subjugated knowledges were “concerned with a historical knowledge of struggles.” It is in the specialized area of these disqualified knowledges that “there lay the memory of hostile encounters,” which to this day have been confined to the margins of erudite knowledge. What we shall notice is that these local subjugated knowledges owe their force “only to the harshness with which [they, the subjugated knowledges] … are opposed by everything surrounding” them. It is precisely against the effects of a so-called scientific discourse that these knowledges had to wage their long-term conflicts.1