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Untouchable Citizens

Untouchable Citizens
Dalit Movements and Democratization in Tamil Nadu

First Edition
  • Hugo Gorringe - Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of Edinburgh, UK

June 2018 | 400 pages | SAGE India
This book studies Dalit movements in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, their mode of organization, engagement in politics and contribution to processes of democratization and egalitarianism.

Questions discussed include: How can democracy be preserved under conditions of extra-institutional mobilization? What is the current situation of Dalits in Tamil Nadu and why and in what manner do they resort to protest? How are egalitarian and democratic ideas initiated at the local level? How are the action concepts of social movements manifested in the everyday lives of their members? and What will be the impact of the entry of the Dalit Liberation Panthers into electoral politics on democracy in Tamil Nadu as well as India?

Hugo Gorringe is Lecturer in Identity, Department of Sociology, University of Edinburgh.

Untouchability Undone?

Mapping the Movement
Introducing the Liberation Panthers

Democracy, Demonstrations and Disorder
Social Mobilization and Socio-Political Change

Victimization, Violence and Valour
The Context of Dalit Activism in Tamil Nadu

Costs, Coercion and Caste
The Material Context of Dalit Protext

Identity, Space and Power
The Spatial Bases and Practice of DPI

Dalit Women and Dalit Movements
Agency, Autonomy and Activism

Leaders and Leadership
Movement Organization and Membership Debates

The Move to Politics
The Institutional Self-Transformation of the Liberation Panthers

`Voting for Ourselves'
Dalit Politics and the 1999 Elections in Tamil Nadu

Critical Citizens - The Liberation Panthers and Democratization in India


This book should help to revise the large (and sometimes repetitive) literature on non-Brahmin politics in the state and contribute to the current debate on the ‘democratization of democracy’ in India…. An original and valuable study that tells us a lot about growing Dalit activism, undoubtedly one of the most significant developments in India today.

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Gorringe has written an important book which impressively documents the hardship and discrimination Scheduled Castes contiue to encounter in India…. The book attempts to document the suffering of the Dalits, and their ill-treatment at the hands of higher castes…. While providing a sympathetic account of the movement, it is to the author’s credit that he also notes the failure of the movement to address gender inequalities in Dalit society at large and in the movement itself and also on the cult of leadership practised within the movement…. [This] is a useful addition for the understanding of how democratic politics works in India at a regional level.

Ethnic and Racial Studies

This case study addresses the implications of extra-parliamentary movements for democratic institutions and offers a finegrained study of the ways in which movement leaders within a stigmatized community appropriate constitutional, social, and symbolic resources in the interest of their community’s greater inclusion within both political and civil institutions. Scholars interested in social movements, in processes of change in hierarchical relations, or in South Asian studies will find the book of particular value.

Contemporary Sociology

This remarkably useful book on dalit political movements combines detailed interviews with front line dalit activist, with a perceptive facing dalit political mobilisation. The battery references is impressive….This book is urgently needed because very little research exists on dalit movements in Tamil Nadu.

Economic and Political Weekly

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