The Question of Caste in Indian English Literature


The Discussion Map charts important debates from the pages of EPW.


In October 1991, Makarand Paranjape wrote an article in the EPW that acknowledged a fundamental omission of the question of caste in Indian English literature. However, the explanation of this thesis statement, to Paranjape’s mind, had more to do with the de-brahmanising of the authors of the Indian English novel rather than their privileged outlook that conveniently dismissed  caste as a crucial aspect of the language and style of their writings as well as their everyday lived experience. K Satyanaryan then attempts to call out the issues with Paranjape’s primary argument and addresses the matter in more detail, stating that caste has a complex relationship with class and is often purported to not have a place in the lives of abroad-educated-colonised scholars. He looks at caste as a crucial aspect of the elitism of the most prominent writers of Indian English literature. He analyses this argument of “de-brahmanising” and notes that though elite authors joined progressive forces to counter traditional caste rules, yet they never fully opposed or openly addressed the identity of caste.


Another extremely important point raised by K Satyanaryan is that Paranjape wrote at the peak of the Mandal commission protests in the early 1990s, as many intellectuals appeared to side with the idea that Indian intellectualism had moved beyond caste. In defence of this allegation, Paranjape responded by controverting many such arguments. However, adding to these series of articles on the issue of the absence of caste in the writings of prominent twentieth century Indian English writers — were two more articles. One by Kalyan Das titled “Subaltern Historiography to Dalit Historiography” written in 2015, it argues that Dalit Historiography and broadly all of its literature needs to reimagine itself differently from what subaltern studies, as Dalit historiography evaluates caste’s relationship with state differently from what subaltern studies does.  Further, Merin Simi Raj collectively brings all of these articles together in her article that traces the discussion from Paranjape’s first article till Kalyan Das’. 


Additional articles:




Ed: To contribute to a more comprehensive discussion map, please share links to other relevant articles by writing to us at with the subject line—“Caste and Literature”


Curated by Priyam []






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