The Creative Section (Vol. 5, No. 1) is on its way and will be published by the end of May, 2024.

Ontological Status of 'Thanatopraxy' on Discrimination; ‘Gendered Body’ and Its ‘Performativity' through Dalit Women’s Constant ‘Resilience’ against Atrocious ‘Caste’ and ‘Social Hierarchy'


Ontological Status of 'Thanatopraxy' on Discrimination; ‘Gendered Body’ and Its ‘Performativity' through Dalit Women’s Constant ‘Resilience’ against Atrocious ‘Caste’ and ‘Social Hierarchy'

Labani Sarkar

PhD Research Scholar

Raiganj University

Uttar Dinajpur, West Bengal, India



Women are subjugated or ostracised and downtrodden by the hands of patriarchy. Historically speaking, patriarchy makes women undergo physical and psychological traumas right from their birth to the end of their life. From Mythical to historical era, women are marginalized and subaltern through the different discourses by the hands of patriarchy. And it is continuously going on. In society, patriarchy plays a pivotal role and they control women under the process of gender socialization. In every society, discrimination on the basis of gender is a common thing. They always treat women as weaker sections and deprive of the education. Despite their adversity, they are very energetic and Performative in their own field. They are resistant and resilient against nefarious ‘caste ' and social system. Like American Philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler, Dalit Women have not believed on ‘gendered body’, they only believed on ‘gendered Performativity’. From the prefix 'thanathos’ means ‘death’ and the sufix ‘Praxi' means ‘practice’. The Greek word Thanatopraxy or Tanatopraxia refers to the sanitization of the corpse. Here,I use the term Tanatopraxia as a process of Sanitization of all kinds of discrimination which exists in the society. My paper shows Dalit Women’s constant’Resilience’and struggle against caste hierarchy and how they try to sanitize to the orthodox minds like Tanatopraxia by using their writing. I shall discuss the autobiographical saga of Bama Faustina, Kalyani Thakur Charal and Urmila Pawer.

Key words:

Thanatopraxy, Discrimination, Gendered Body, Resilience, Atrocious, Performativity, Subjugation, Sanitization, Subaltern, Marginalized, Downtrodden, Orthodox, Discourse, Hierarchy.

Gender discrimination or the categorisation of gender is a hot issue in literature in the twenty first century .It arises from differences in the unwritten norms which is traditionally going on in the society. We all know that literature is the mirror of the society and it is the only medium in which one can easily protest against all kinds of injustice through his or her writings. The English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton once coined ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’. The writer used pen as a sword and their writing is the language of protest against injustice. The intellectualist raised their voice against gender discrimination and demands gender equality. Resilience has been most frequently defined as positive adaptation despite adversity. The writings of Dalit Women have delineated the hard-core realities of their life and their struggle against atrocious social system. They vividly depict all kinds of discrimination exists in the society and their experience which they have received from the society. The Dalit women are triple marginalized. At first, they are Dalit and hence they are marginalized or subaltern by the hands of mainstream society. And secondly, they are women and they are marginalized or subjugated by the hands of patriarchy of the mainstream society and also their own community. And at last, they are ostracised by the hands of mainstream women in the society. Despite having received a western education and having been taught liberal humanism, enlightenment and science, there is a rigidity of the caste system in the minds of the Indian people. The practice of caste system is like a social disease and it easily attacks on the orthodox people. The autobiography of the Dalit woman is not only the saga of individual but also depicts sorrows, sufferings, subjugation and socio-economic conditions in a society. Their autobiography also delineates how Dalit women suffer from the triple oppression because of their gender, economical condition and their low caste. Bama Faustina is a Dalit woman writer who has discussed her experiences in all her writings. Her autobiographical novel Karukku and another novel Sangati discusses different issues like casteism, racism, gender etc. Bama, as a writer rejects all kinds of stereotyping of Society and traditional values of her community. Like Butler, she believes on Performativity of gender and made a new path for other women in her community. Judith Butler writes in her best-known work ‘Gender Trouble’, “There is no gender identity behind the expression of gender; that identity is performatively constituted by the very ‘expressions’ that are said to be its results” (25).

Kalyani Thakur Charal is one of the recognised Dalit voices from Bengal. She herself faced ‘caste’ discrimination when she arrived in Kolkata for studies. According to her, the structure of caste discrimination is inside in every person; the one who is discriminating and also the one who is being discriminated. She is only victimized by the caste discrimination but also subverts the ‘caste’ hierarchy in Bengal by using ‘charal’ as her surname. She says, ’chandal’ or ‘Charal’ is an abusive word, a tag meant to humiliate the Dalits. Her autobiography is ‘Ami Keno Charal Likhi’ (Why I Write Charal, 2016).She has self-published several books of poems, a prose collection of her essay, ‘Chandalinir Bibriti’ (Account by a Chandalini, 2012). She is an activities articulates through her writings not only her own story but also that of men and women in her community. She and many others have published a magazine ‘Neer’_a platform to raise the voice against all kinds of discrimination and class hierarchy in Bengal. She also believes on ‘gender Performativity' like most other Dalit women. Now in Bengal, there are many Dalit women writers like Lily Haldar, Maroona Murmmu etc. The Dalit Women’s writings in West Bengal delineate the harsh realities of struggle, subjugation and suffering of Dalit Women. Urmila Pawer is a woman writer and her autobiographical work ‘Aaydaan’ (Marathi original) translated as ‘The Weave of My Life: A Dalit Woman’s Memoir’ by Maya Pandit is much celebrated. It delineates the historical injustices and looks at the way social structure has marginalized populations on the basis of caste. Her short story ‘Mother Wit’ depicts the extraordinary short story of the ordinary woman. Pawer weaves together Dalit Women’s narratives and systematically undoes each of the ties caste, gender and class to portray historical subordination of her protagonist. Indian Dalit and tribal women’s autobiographies address the plurality that lie in the diverse ways lower-class women’s experience, oppression and exploitation. Despite all adversity, there is a constant resilience to overcome all these things. Their physical, mental, emotional and social resilience placed them on the Zenith and they get mental peace. Their resistance is continuous and it never comes to an ends. Bama Faustina is one of the Dalit Christian writers whose works portray the stereotyping of gender against the mainstream society. Her writings give voice of the voiceless people in her community. She rejects ‘Manusmriti’, a standard Hindu religious text which denies a woman right to be independent. The French Feminist Simon De Beauvoir commenting on this method of Socialization in her 1919 book’ The Second Sex’, said: ‘One is not born, but rather becomes a woman’(Beauvoir).

In “Karukku”, Bama Faustina has said that marriage is one of the mechanisms through which the patriarchy subjugates and controls women. Here, she has portrayed the very collective unconsciousness of the Dalits and their torments. She said: “The story told in ‘Karruku’ is not my own story alone. It is the depiction of a collective trauma of my community…that can not be measured in the length of time”.

As a heterodox, she has obstructed all kinds of discriminated in her plays. In ‘Sangati’, her another novel, has discussed how the stereotype of gender demands that all the household works like cleaning, cooking, laundry baby-sitting, fields etc. are done by the girls whereas the boys enjoy playing games or hanging out with their fields in the village. She is unmarried and she rejects marriage. She speaks in her mind, “If I married just because I am afraid. It being alone, I will land myself in her greater trouble…If I were to marry, I would have to live the rest of my life and die in the end for the sake of one man, what use would I be them, to society.” (Bama131).

She also presents unequal treatment of gender in the form of the unequal division of labour and wage in the hands of an elite that has been imposed upon the lower caste women who are paid much less than their mind. Physical and sexual violence are also common forms of violence faced by women from their community members. Women face gender-based violence from within their home and in public places by the hands of non-family members. Like Afro-American writer Alice Walker, Bama believes in ‘Dalit-womanism’ means Dalit women are equal to any woman, men belong to any caste, whether Dalits or non-Dalits. That is Dalits feminisms also. Dalit- womanism also refers to Dalit women are supreme, they are not second. There is a conversation between Mini Krishnan and Bama Faustina at Kerala literature festival, 2018. Here she has given a vivid answer, she said; ‘whoever practice this nefarious caste system, they are not human being because they not only degrades the Dalits but also degrades themselves also. They are not ‘human being’, they have no dignity. Only Dalits have dignity because they respect each and every people in this world. For this reason they are superior.’(Bama, Kerala, 2018)

Urmila Pawer’s autobiography The weave of My Life: A Dalit Woman’s Memoir delineates her journey from a small village to the huge metro city, her incessant struggle in a variety of forms; dalit, woman and lower-caste .So, there is a constant resilience against all kinds of obstacles. It weaves a complex relationship between ’official forgetting', memory, and identity forgoing a right to speak both for and beyond the gendered individual and contesting explicitly the ‘official forgetting' of histories of caste oppression, struggles and resistance. Kalyani Thakur Charal writes in her poem No.33 from her 2011 collection, Chandalinir Kabita:

I'll have to remember There is no dalit in Bengal!

Dalits are everywhere in the world

NOT HERE! (Kalyani)

In Indian politics, caste and class have played a dubious role. In Bengal which has considered itself a progressive region, the persistence of caste discrimination has been continuously denied and economic disparity has been highlighted. Her autobiography ‘Ami Keno Charal Likhi’ is vividly delineated the hardcore realities of Bengal. Here, she criticises the ‘Bengali Babu Culture' and how Bengali ‘Bhadhraloks’ are dangerous for a young girl. They always wear mask. In her autobiography she has mentioned how her elder sister was raped by a ‘Bhadhraloks’ private tutor. Though it is a common thing. She herself is criticized by upper class ‘Bhadhraloks' colleagues at a office in Kolkata. They always ask about the word ‘Charal’.Though she has not faced gender discrimination at home but she knows it about very closely. She denies Alice Walker’s ‘womanism’ but believes on ‘dalit-womanism’ like Bama. she also rejects ‘sisterhood’ concept or the world ‘sisterhood’ because she believes that ‘sisterhood’ can’t remove the pain of the Dalit women.

Sonia Mahey in her essay ‘The status of Dalit Women in India’s Caste Based System' finally sums up the matter: “…in a male dominated society, ’Dalit women face a triple burden of caste, class and gender” (Mahey149).

Gayatri Chakravarty Spivak in her essay ‘Can The Subaltern Speak?’ has given a vivid answer that subaltern can not speak, if the subaltern can speak then he or she does not belong to subaltern. Now, subaltern has voice and by using this voice they fight against all kinds of discrimination. Amartya Sen in his book ‘The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian Culture, History and Indentity writes, ‘Voice is a central component of the pursuit of social justice.’


My intent desire is to see how the Dalits women writers are resilient and resistant against all kinds of discrimination in the society. These women are still speaking or seeking in their speeches rather to reside in a nation that doesn’t regard them as the ‘other’. When I myself read the text of these women, it seems to me that their writings are like Tanatopraxia and it necessary for the orthodox and rigid people to sanitize their mind because in their mind have contamination diseases. The genders Performativity of Dalit Women glorify their position in the society. Like Virginia Woolf, they are making a room of their own by taking writing as a career.

Works Cited


Bama, Karukku. Trans.Lakshi Holmstorm. ed. Mini Krishnan. 2nd edit. New Delhi: Oxford India Press, 2016.


Beauvoir, Simon De. The Second Sex. Trans. and Edit. H. M.Parshley. Landsborough publication.

Banu, Shakila. “Bama’s Karukku and Sangati: The True Reflection of Indian Dalit women”. The Criterion, An International Journal in English, vol- 4, issue- IV, 1-6, 2013.

Mahey, Sonia.’The Status of Dalit Women in India’s Caste Based System’, Culture and the State: Alternative Intervention, ed. James Gifford and Gabrielle Zezulka Mailoux. CRC HUMANTIES STUDIO PUBLISHERS.

Muller, Aukje, “A Story of Oppression: Freedom of Expression, Minorities, Sexual Harassment Law and Offence”, 2017.