I am a PhD research scholar in Sociology at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India. My PhD research is an ethnographic study of labour relations in the sugarcane dominated agrarian economy of Western Uttar Pradesh with a special focus on caste and gender. Prior to this I obtained a Masters degree in Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. I also have an experience of working with NGOs that cater to a diverse population ranging from children of sex workers, transgenders, women street beggars to tribals in Jharkhand.
Mapping ‘Weapons of the Weak’ among Dalit Women Agricultural Labourers in Western Uttar Pradesh
The quotidian and unexceptional form of peasant resistance, covert in nature, is often missed out while accounting for the processes of social change. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in two villages in Muzaffarnagar district of Western Uttar Pradesh this paper adopts James Scott’s framework to explore the everyday forms of resistance of dalit women agricultural labourers against the capitalist agrarian structure designed along the exploitative institution of caste and patriarchy. Building an argument based on the critique of Scott that peasants have an inbuilt agency to resist domination, the paper tries to elaborate the processes of social changes in Western Uttar Pradesh which have led to an increased political consciousness of the dalits in the region. Scholars have focused on these social processes for the dalit community as a whole, without taking into cognizance the nuances of gender. Although Western Uttar Pradesh has undergone significant socio-political changes but their positive effects in terms of redistribution of resources and increase in employment opportunities have not reached dalit women to the desired extent. But it cannot be overlooked that these changes have unquestionably raised the political consciousness of dalit women and made them aware of their oppression. However, the structural constraints put limits on the forms of resistance of dalit women and allow them only to adopt individualized and subtle ways to challenge oppression on an everyday basis. Through these mundane everyday acts, dalit women carve out spaces for themselves and safeguard their interests within the existing hierarchical and oppressive system.
Affiliation: Indian Institute of Technology, India