Dalit Literature in India and Nepal: The Question of Authorial Authority

- Michael Hutt

Discussion Type: Research Seminar Series | Date: 21 Apr 2024 | Time: 03:00 PM


21 April  2024/९ वैशाख २०८१ (आइतबार, दिउँसो ३ बजे)
Research Seminar Series
Dalit Literature in India and Nepal: The Question of Authorial Authority
Michael Hutt, SOAS, University of London

About the Speaker
Michael Hutt is an Emeritus Professor of Nepali and Himalayan Studies at SOAS, University of London and a Research Affiliate at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford. He is the author and co/editor of many books on Nepal, the most recent one being Epicentre to Aftermath: Rebuilding and Remembering in the Wake of Nepal's Earthquakes (co-edited volume, 2021).

The term dalit was first coined by BR Ambedkar and is often said to have been ‘introduced’ to Nepal by Ambedkar when he visited Kathmandu in 1956. Bodies of writing labelled ‘Dalit literature’ developed in several of the major literary languages of India, notably Marathi and Hindi, after Indian independence, and the late fifties saw the publication of the first Dalit-authored texts in Nepali. However, the term dalit quickly disappeared from Nepali public discourse under the Panchayat regime. The development of Nepali Dalit literature was retarded as a consequence, and it has only very recently begun to be recognized as a genre of Nepali literature. Dalit literature in India and Dalit literature in Nepal diverge over the question of authorial authority. Indian Dalit literature has been somewhat dominated by Dalit autobiographies which, by definition, can only be authored by Dalits. However, this exclusivity of authorial authority extends far beyond autobiographical texts in the Indian context, to all genres of Dalit literature. In Nepal, by contrast, there appears to be a greater willingness to accept texts by non-Dalit authors which focus on the Dalit experience as works of Dalit literature. This presentation will attempt to analyse and explain this ideological divergence, drawing upon conversations with Dalit writers in Nepal and readings of key literary and critical texts.

- Michael Hutt

Past Events