What is it that Dalits seek in religion? How do Dalits perceive themselves in relation to something Divine and , against this background, to other humans? How do they deal with the denial of access to certain religious practices and sites? How do they understand religion? How do the problems of conceptualizing “religion” reflect in the ways the relations and problems of Dalits with religion are being understood? What are the Dalits’ understandings of suffering and umiliation on the one hand, of social recognition and human dignity on the other?
Dalits and other disadvantaged people had to negotiate modes of religiosity and religious power structures continuously, as they had to negotiate livelihood issues , political structures and the relationships with dominant others. Dalits had to face humiliation and the denial of acceptance as fellow human beings, but also encountered problems when trying to establish spaces for themselves. At the same time, Dalits invented ideas, practices and agendas of their own. Throughout Indian history the socio-religious hierarchy and the dominant, even hegemonic religious strands and traditions have been accompanied by counter-imaginaries, which represent universalistic concepts of their own, but which, obviously, have never become dominant.
The conference wants to view the field of religion in India from an angle that differs from the perspectives enshrined in the dominant religious discourses that control the important religious institutions. At the same time, the category Dalit covers a wide range of discriminated, but differently positioned groups of people.
The relationship between Dalits and religiosity has so far not been systematically discussed. Starting to address this question is of core relevance for an understanding of how people experiencing systematic discrimination engage with the world, as it is for an understanding of modern India.
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