DALITS AND SOCIAL MOBILITY: A DISCUSSION ON THE DALIT MIDDLE CLASS
The spread of education ,introduction of policy of reservations in government jobs and educational institutions and other Affirmative Action policies of the State have led to the emergence of a middle class from within the Dalit community referred to as the ‘Dalit Middle Class’ (Ram, 1995; Savaala, 2001; Pandey, 2011; Jodhka, 2012; 2015). This group constitutes the educated Dalits who have entered into modern occupations associated with the middle class. While these Dalits have undoubtedly secured occupational and economic mobility and have witnessed an improvement in class position, as literature highlights, their caste identity as ‘Dalits’ still continues to mediate their daily life experiences of ‘being the middle class’ and stigmatise their identity unlike the ‘mainstream middle class’. This renders the understanding of their social mobility as complex. It is the case of this Dalit Middle Class and their social mobility which the present paper takes up for discussion.
Through a review of literature, this paper argues that given that the considerations of caste are still at work as far as the relations and interaction between the Dalits and the larger society is concerned, an improvement in class position for these educated middle class Dalits may not necessarily lead to an improvement in their social status. Despite gaining an entry into the middle class fractions, many of them still face discrimination as well as resistance to their assimilation in the mainstream middle class. As the paper will show even if their class position improves, their caste identity intervenes in their relationships with others from the middle class and higher classes.
Along with this, the paper also emphasizes that to understand the complexity of the social mobility processes and experiences for groups like Dalits that have been marginalised, it is important that research on social mobility not only entails quantitatively studying the intergenerational shifts in occupation, education, income etc., but also qualitatively studying the processes, strategies and experiences of social mobility in terms of their interactions with others from their class and other classes. The latter specifically implies understanding social mobility in terms of the degree of social and ritual distance between the Dalit middle class and other non-Dalit middle class members as well as those from other classes.
Dalits, Dalit Middle Class, Social Mobility
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