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The caste system has implications for the environmental experiences of Dalits (formerly “untouchables”). Dalits are disproportionately impacted by natural disasters and climate change because of their high dependence on natural resources and manual labor, including agriculture. Dalit viewpoints and ecological expertise nevertheless remain missing from the environmental literature and mainstream activism. Aligning with Black ecologies as a challenge to eco-racism, I use the term “Dalit ecologies” to conceptualize Dalit articulations with their environment and experiences of eco-casteism involving inequities such as their exclusions from natural resources and high vulnerability to pollution and waste. My analysis of scholarly literature finds that nature is caste-ized through the ideology of Hindu Brahminism that animates mainstream environmental activism in India. Dalit subjectivities and agency nevertheless remain evident in their literary and oral narratives and ongoing struggles for access to land, water, and other environmental resources.
Environment and Society – Berghahn Books
Published: Sep 1, 2022
Keywords: caste; Dalit; ecological inequality; India; racialization; untouchability
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