A New History of Democracy: Dalit Spaces, Printing, and Practices in Twentieth Century North India


Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships




Instead of viewing Dalits as ‘latecomers’ to politics and the democratic public sphere as others have claimed, the archival materials collected for this project suggest that Dalits played a constitutive role in experimenting with and establishing new institutional structures and cultural practices fundamental to the way democracy developed in India. Dalit-owned printing presses published Hindi language books from 1923 onwards, accompanied by the creation of a new practice of counter demonstrations, challenges to Hindu religious hierarchy, and demands for affirmative action policies capable of rectifying discrimination within state institutions. In tracing the development of these phenomena, this project offers a new explanation for the origin and success of democracy in India.