Dr. Shailaja Paik has written an article which has just been published with the refereed journal, Contributions to Indian Sociology. Paik’s article entitled “Mahar-Dalit-Buddhist: The history of naming in Maharashtra” examines the social history and politics of naming Dalits in Maharashtra (Western India). By using the process of naming, Paik analyzes the multiple, shifting, and contested meanings of “being” an Untouchable in pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial India. From her abstract:
By examining practices of naming, especially the recent adoption of a‘Buddhist’ identity by middle-class Dalits in contemporary Maharashtra, this article analyses the multiple, shifting, and contested meanings of being Dalit. Examining the politics of this plurality shows the varied concerns at work in applying and contesting different names, especially the social and psychological challenges inherent in such acts of self-identification. By investigating the ambiguities and ambivalences of being Dalit and Buddhist, the article demonstrates that the strategies of naming struggle against the burdens of a stigmatised past as well as the challenge of exclusion and inclusion vis-à-vis different Dalit castes.
This article appears in the June issue of Contributions to Indian Sociology (June 2011 vol. 45 no. 2 217-241).