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Ajotikar, Rasika (2019) Music And The Politics Of Caste And Gender : Women’s Voices Of Liberation In Western India. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis examines how musicianship shapes and is shaped by caste and gender politics in Maharashtra state, India. Through a historical analysis of the relationship between caste, gender, sexuality and music, this thesis presents an alternate history of music in modern India through the lens of oppressed caste or Dalit communities who represent a generational trajectory of hereditary musicianship. This study highlights voices of Dalit women musicians as their embodied labour signifies a particular location in caste and gender hierarchy. Part of this study also presents responses of Dalit women musicians to the socio-economic hegemony and cultural apartheid of dominant castes, particularly brahmins in contemporary Maharashtra with a focus on contemporary Ambedkarite and caste-ending (jaatiantak) cultural movements, wherein liberatory politics are asserted through song, poetics, narrative and performance styles. Through ethnographic research, this thesis explores genres like bhimgeet (songs of Bhim), buddhageet (songs of Buddha) and vidrohi shahiri jalsa (rebellious music gathering) that demonstrate traces of a counter history marked by a critique of brahmanical constructions of musical knowledge. It marks the distinctive context of western India where the rise of brahmanical nationalism, Hindutva and communist mobilisations are challenged by anti-caste movements of the 19th and 20th centuries. This thesis then critically examines the dynamics of the brahmanical state and society in post-independence democratic India and how Dalit musicianship is appropriated, surveilled and incarcerated for different ends. Drawing on debates within the fields of ethnomusicology, history, feminist and gender studies, political theory, sociology, and scholarly works on caste, race, religion and literary criticism, my thesis problematises the overall construction of brahmanical epistemologies and highlights alternative spaces of knowledge creation in contemporary Maharashtra. The study ultimately examines the potentials, contradictions, and challenges presented in discursive and performative practices of music in India/South Asia.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Richard Widdess
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2020 13:24

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