History Professor Sheds Light on Dalit Untouchable Women in India

UC Department of History Professor Shailaja Paik recently published her first book, which focuses on Dalit “Untouchable” women in India. Paik has been invited to be an expert advisor on Obama-Singh Higher Education Initiative for Inclusive Universities.  

Paik’s book, Dalit Women’s Education in Modern India: Double Discrimination, was published by Routledge London and New York Press. This is the first book published that focuses on the history of Dalit women in India. It is also the first major study that explores the role of secular education as a vehicle of social and political emancipation (on individual and collective levels) for Dalit women. The Dalit communities in India have been fighting for their basic human and civil rights since the middle of the 19th century. 

In her book, Paik focuses on the struggle of Dalit women in one arena in particular — the realm of formal education. She analyzes the nexus between caste, class, gender and state pedagogical practices to investigate a range of interconnected social, cultural and political questions. The book centers on themes including slum life, urban middle classes, social and sexual labor, and family, marriage and children to provide a penetrating portrait of the actions and lives of Dalit women. 

“Dalit Women's Education in Modern India will be invaluable to students of history, caste politics, women and gender studies, education studies, urban studies, Asian studies and the global history of modernity and emancipation” Paik said. 

Paik has been invited to serve as an expert advisor on the Inclusive Universities Project. This project is a part of the Obama-Singh Higher Education Knowledge Initiative, a bilateral plan to promote institutional cooperation between Indian and American universities. 

Additionally, Paik has published an articled titled “Building Bridges: Articulating Dalit and African American Women’s Solidarity” in Women’s Studies Quarterly published by Feminist Press at the City University of New York. Another article “Forging a New Dalit Womanhood in Colonial Western India: Discourse on Modernity, Rights, Education, and Empowerment,” is forthcoming with the Journal of Women’s History, the premier journal in the international field of women’s history.

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