"My Birth is My Fatal Accident": introduction to caste and life narratives
Abstract

Life narratives ranging from autobiographies and biographies to blogs and pictorial art have historically played a vital role in both the affirmation as well as interrogation of caste identities. However, serious study of life narratives in relationship to caste is still relatively underdeveloped. The scholarship on caste (or the varna-jati complex) is vast, as is the study of life narratives as a genre—it is the conjunction of the two that especially merits sustained scrutiny. The study of caste is animated by a Critical Caste Studies that takes its bearing from Dalit Studies, a lively area of scholarly endeavor in recent years, in order to explore diverse phenomena within the varna-jati complex. The scrutiny of life narratives in conjunction with caste promises to expand the scope of inquiry into life narratives by bringing new cultural contexts into the discussion and by enabling the formulation of new theoretical questions of genre. Such an investigation contributes to the study of caste by directing attention to fresh archives and by making available for analysis in powerful ways questions of identity. The critical work of studying caste in conjunction with life narratives is most pertinent with regard to India but includes the South Asian diaspora as well as other countries such as Japan.


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