Journal article Open Access

Philomela Speaks! Indian Dalit and Australian Aboriginal Women Writers Destabilizing the 'Center(s)'

Shaweta Nanda

This paper begins by unearthing the complex nexus between various institutions including family, religion,
caste/race/ ethnicity, and law that are controlled by those in power and have worked in tandem to create
a silenced minority, namely that of Aboriginal women in Australia, and Dalit women in India, that have
been incessantly hurled on the margins of literary, feminist, social, racial/caste, religious, and political
discourse. Facing the brunt of “multiple jeopardy” these women suffered due to their race/caste, sex, and
class to begin with. Although I am conscious of the differences in the condition of Aboriginal Australian
women, who were turned into inferior ‘outcastes’ in their own country by the white invaders, and that of
Dalit women in India, who were literally and metaphorically pushed out of the village as ‘polluted’
untouchables by members of their own religion and nation, I wish to trace a similarity in the aim,
methodology and consequences of their victimization as what lies at the heart of varied
conceptualizations of the margins is the discourse of powerlessness, hegemonic control and exploitation.
Deploying the lens feminist studies, the second part of the paper studies autobiographical narratives of
women writers such as Bama’s Karukku and Sally Morgan’s My Place in order to analyze how these voices
from the margins have re-conceptualized this space as not being defined by exclusion, but as one that is a
characterized by fluidity, change and dialogue as they bring the oft ignored concerns like exploitation,
poverty, motherhood, loss of culture and identity, and relationship with the body to the fore. Redefining
centre and countering “postcolonial subalternization”, their works pose a challenge not only to the
traditional Eurocentric male canon, but also to discourses like Feminism which are now being reconceptualized
as ‘Feminisms.

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