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Panthers in ParliamentDalits, Caste, and Political Power in South India$
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Hugo Gorringe

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780199468157

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199468157.001.0001

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Symbolism Over Substance?

Symbolism Over Substance?

Symbols, Space, and Power

(p.177) 5 Symbolism Over Substance?
Panthers in Parliament

Hugo Gorringe

Oxford University Press

One of the key criticisms of Dalit politics across India is that it is too focused on a politics of symbols and identity rather than issues like redistribution. Ambedkar images and statues—or his portrayal in school text-books—exercise as much time as campaigns against atrocities and for land rights. This chapter will chart the VCK’s politics in relation to these issues and engage with the debates over the primacy of symbolic politics. It will be argued that the distinction between ‘symbolic’ and ‘substantive’ politics is often blurred in a situation where Dalits can still be attacked for raising a flag or unveiling a statue.

Keywords:   Symbolic politics, simulation, identity politics, caste violence, empowerment, Ambedkar

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