ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Samarth’s Suit

Manual Scavenging, Caste, and Comics

Suit adds to the discourse on caste through its comic format depicting neo-casteist ideologies undergirding (urban) social systems.

Despite a 30-year-old ban, around 50,000 manual scavengers are still employed in India by the state and private organisations. Among them, 97.25% are from lower castes, reinforcing caste hierarchy. Caste—an ostracising social hierarchy—is invisibilised as a thing of the past, whereas, in actuality, it subtly manifests in conjunction with other discriminatory practices. In the urban set-up, caste has metamorphosed to social systems via identity politics, resulting in neo-casteist injustices against the lower castes.

Despite some recent efforts to address caste-related themes in comics, such as Navayana’s Bhimayana (2011) and A Gardener in the Wasteland (2011), comics remain unstudied as a site for examining caste. While Bhimayana is a graphic biography of B R Ambedkar, A Gardener in the Wasteland depicts the complex life story of Jotiba Phule. However, it is important to note that both these graphic narratives focus majorly on the lives of notable anti-caste, iconoclast Dalit figures, leaving out the diverse and contemporary experiences of the common Dalit person. Samarth’s Suit (2021), on the other hand, takes a distinct approach to addressing casteism by focusing on manual scavenging and collective action. Put differently, Suit adds to the discourse on caste through its comic format depicting neo-casteist ideologies undergirding (urban) social systems.

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Updated On : 6th Jul, 2023
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