Contents of Volume 1
Shail Mayaram, Of Marginality: Poverty, Migration and Memory in the Megacity
The article addresses issues of marginalization in the context of postcolonial migration to the megacity. Taking Delhi as an example, the author outlines first, the nature of migration during the partition, and the importance of identities as central to the construction of the modern middle class mediated by a welfare-state, before moving on to examine the particular situation of migration in the context of poverty. Through the lived stories of men and women, what the author reflexively calls the 'anecdotal' mode, she attempts to identify the subaltern of the city, marginalized at once by the state, its elite citizens and the new global-market ethic. Using the rickshaw puller and the hawker/vendor as examples, the author traces the multiple pressures at play in the megacity, showing how narratives of 'planned' cities and the categorization of marginal in academia and the media have impacted these processes. However, she does not give up hope that the megacity can also be a place for subaltern cosmopolitanisms and co-lived/shared histories.
Sivamohan Sumathy, The Middle Passage: Migration and Displacement of Sri Lankan Tamil Women of the Diaspora
The article attempts to grapple with different facets of marginalization produced by a specific type of Diasporic activity - as women, as Sri Lankan Tamils, and as participants that must negotiate a process that is at once transnational and postcolonial. Through the examination of different cultural modes of expression, novels, stories and pamphlets, it attempts to answer as to how the Sri Lankan Tamil woman, away-from-home, makes sense of her world and how she sees it vis-à-vis her 'homeland'. Though displacement itself contains the liberatory potential, is this 'truth' of a better world often distorted by the indirect and direct controls imposed by a hegemonic West? Through the metaphor of the woman's body, the author attempts to map the contours of identity-politics that are at play on trans-border women. By marking the different phases in the process of Tamil migration, she notes the change that has come about in the constitution of 'nationalist' identities, the role of transnational locations, and in the final phase, the reformulation of identity with changes in class. Of particular interest here is the continuation of the Tamil nation, and the role it plays in the re-production of the marginalization of women. What way out is there then? For the author, there is a 'middle passage', one that re-negotiates the contours of her own body, and thus her nation, through her own modes of expression, not radically or transgressively, but less violently.
The article seeks to answer questions crucial to the marginalization debate like - Is commercial globalization bringing in more than consumer goods into the developing countries? And if so, then what is the consequent impact on the relationship between the state and its citizens. While the city in the developed world acts as a node of contact with the forces of globalization, sending out the messages of the global 'fantasy', the city in the developing world acts as the receptor of such signals from which the 'fantasy' can be accessed by the rest of the developed world. Persons living in the city in the developing world, as a result, can not only have greater access to the cultural products of globalization but also absorb the practices of the networked worlds. This process of seepage of practices of globalization, these city-zens undergo a change in their equation with the state, which previously used to be the sole mediator between the city-zens and the worlds of modernity and progress.
In this article the author applies the Rawlsian principles of justice, which lay down a theory of fair equality of opportunity, to examine the Indian reservation policy. Both, in principle, seek to mitigate the arbitrariness of birth and provide individuals with an 'equal start' in life. Although reservations see justified from a theoretical angle, the historical politicisation of caste has led to the distortion of the policy from being one that seeks to promote equality to a policy that preserves social inequalities and hierarchies. This has been one of the major causes that have prevented the envisioned objectives of the reservation policy from being realized. The problem, may, however, be overcome by replacing the purely caste-based criterion with one that takes into account economic backwardness as well and by expanding the scope of affirmative action beyond reservation.
This article briefly delves into history to trace the ideological contours of institutionalized protest against untouchability and the discernible shift towards a quest for a distinct identity in the colonial era, particularly with the emergence of Dr B.R. Ambedkar as its leader. In this context, it then seeks to highlight the recurring themes as well as contradictions in Ambedkar's thought, and assesses how a combination of playing up of those incongruities by vested interests as well as other factors have been successful in preventing the realization of his vision of emancipation. Finally, the paper attempts to elucidate some of the practical manifestations of the perpetuation of self-serving Ambedkar 'icons' by the dominant groups by exploring the origin, evolution, 'principles' and strategies of two vehicles of Dalit mobilization seemingly on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum- the Dalit Panthers Movement and the BSP - and by reflecting on their ultimate outcomes.