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Joothan An Untouchable's Life

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ISBN-10: 0231129734

ISBN-13: 9780231129732

Edition: 2008

Authors: Omprakash Valmiki, Arun Prabha Mukherjee

List price: $24.00
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Omprakash Valmiki's Joothan, an autobiographical account of his birth and upbringing as an untouchable, or Dalit, in the newly independent India of the 1950s, is one of the first portrayals of Dalit life in north India from an insider's perspective. "Joothan" literally means scraps of food left on a plate, destined for the garbage or for the family pet in a middle-class urban home. It is related to the word "jootha," which means polluted, and such scraps are characterized as "joothan" only if someone else eats them. India's untouchables have been forced to accept and eat joothanfor their subsistence for centuries. The word encapsulates the pain, humiliation, and poverty of this community, which has lived at the bottom of India's social pyramid for millenia. Although untouchability was legally abolished in the constitution of the newly independent India in 1949, Dalits continue to face discrimination, economic deprivation, violence, and ridicule. Traditionally, Indian literatures have either ignored untouchables or portrayed them as victims in need of saviors, as objects without voice or agency. Valmiki has broken new ground with an authentic recording of these unrepresented experiences. He tells the stories of life in the untouchable caste of Chuhra, at the bottom rung of society; his heroic struggle to survive this preordained life of perpetual physical and mental persecution; the cruel obstacles he overcame to become the first high school graduate of his neighborhood; his coming to consciousness under the influence of the great Dalit political leader B. R. Ambedkar; and his transformation into a speaking subject bearing witness to the oppression and exploitation that he endured as an individual and as a member of a stigmatized and oppressed community. Dalits today constitute about one sixth of India's population. Spread over the entire country, speaking many languages, and belonging to many religions, they have become a major political force. As a document of the long silenced and long denied sufferings of the Dalits, Joothanis not only a contribution to the archives of Dalit history, but a manifesto for the revolutionary transformation of society and human consciousness.
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Book details

List price: $24.00
Copyright year: 2008
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 7/2/2008
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 208
Size: 5.50" wide x 8.25" long x 0.50" tall
Weight: 0.770
Language: English

Omprakash Valmiki is the author of two collections of poetry and one of short stories. As editor and publisher of numerous magazines, he has played a vital role in the propagation of Dalit literature.Arun Prabha Mukherjee is professor of English at York University in Toronto. She is the author of Postcolonialism: My Livingand Oppositional Aesthetics: Readings from a Hyphenated Space.

Preface to the Hindi Edition