Abstract

Abstract:

In 1978, Dalit immigrants in New York and New Jersey came together to form the first anti-caste organization in the United States: Volunteers in the Service of India's Oppressed and Neglected (VISION). A transnational activist organization with a specifically diasporic focus, VISION was created to advocate for India's Dalits. This article analyzes the activism—protest, advocacy, and consciousness-raising—of VISION and one of its chief architects, Dr. Laxmi Berwa. Throughout the 1980s and afterwards, Berwa and members of VISION staged protests at venues large and small, appealed to international human rights organizations, and built cross-racial and ethnic alliances with other minoritized groups, especially African Americans. Their activism was instrumental in increasing the global visibility and awareness of the problem of caste and to building a transnational network of support for India's Dalits. Anti-caste activism also shaped the formation of identity and community abroad; it exposed significant caste-based fissures in the Indian diaspora and revealed alternative ways of being, imagining, and utilizing a diasporic identity from what is often assumed in studies of Indian Americans. This article argues that transnational activism by Berwa and VISION helped constitute a new community in the United States, a community of overseas anti-caste activists, in short, a Dalit diaspora.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-1568
Print ISSN
1044-2057
Pages
pp. 64-86
Launched on MUSE
2021-03-26
Open Access
No
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