Hegemony and Its Discontents: Translating Gramsci with Dalit Subalterns
In this seminar, Karin Kapadia analyses the relatively new phenomenon of Dalit Pentecostalism in Chennai’s slums as a crucial counter-hegemonic challenge to the ideological and moral legitimacy of the Modi regime.
Following the BJP’s recent landslide victory in the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, the political analyst Yogendra Yadav said: ‘this hegemony poses a challenge to our democracy … we face a real possibility of an onslaught on the foundational values of our republic. How, then, do we counter this hegemony? … Counter-hegemony must begin by developing a cultural toolkit to take on the ideological and moral legitimacy of the regime. This is the principal political challenge of our times’.
The spiritual message of Dalit Pentecostalism is a radical egalitarianism underpinned by a passionate insistence on the equal worth and dignity of all human beings; and it is explicitly directed against the worsening economic inequalities generated by casteist capitalist neoliberalism and also, implicitly, directed against patriarchal oppression. At the same time, the Pentecostals’ challenge to the ideological and moral legitimacy of the Modi regime is shown to be inherently ambiguous because of a latent aspiration among Dalits to ‘move up’ within a deeply unequal class system.
Karin Kapadia is a social anthropologist and Research Associate at South Asian Studies, Oxford University.