Narrating the Culture of Resistance in Harijan Community in an Urban Area of Bangladesh: An Anthropological Study

Narrating the Culture of Resistance in Harijan Community in an Urban Area of Bangladesh: An Anthropological Study

Goutam Kumar Dutta, Md. Mostafizur Rahman, S. M. Monirul Ahasan, Md. Musfikur Rahman
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/IJISSC.303593
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The culture of resistance refers to an act by a particular unprivileged community against the dominant practice of cultural norms in the larger society. It perpetuates the clash between dominant and alternative cultural meanings developed by mainstream society and marginalized subgroups. We aimed to narrate the culture of resistance in the Harijan community in urban Bangladesh. We adopted Observation, In-depth Interview (IDI), Key Informant Interview (KII), and General Discussion as data collection tools to obtain data from the Harijan community to narrate it. The findings revealed that Harijan people struggled to survive with ‘intra’ and ‘inter’ community competition. Moreover, they resist in everyday activities through some cultural norms and practices such as keeping silent, avoiding any untoward situation, acting differently with mainstream people, following conventional customs as well as mainstream people’s law, and making common temples for their religious occasion’s observance. Therefore, they survive in their everyday lives by adopting this simple resistance mechanism.
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Globally, above 260 million women and men are suffered from caste-based discrimination (Mosse, 2018). The caste system is a strictly hierarchical social system based on the principal of purity and pollution. Caste systems and prejudice against so-called ‘untouchables’ are part of traditional practices and originate from Hindu scriptures. Since the colonial period, it has existed in South Asia (Cohn, 1996; Dirks, 2001). It is widely practices that originated in India and Nepal as a “peculiar” cultural practice. Beyond India and Nepal, it is also practiced in other South Asian countries. For example, in Bangladesh, the ‘low castes’ increasingly refer to themselves as Dalits, both in Hindus and Muslims. While the Hindu Dalits are clubbed under the category of the Harijan (or the Harijan, in the local parlance), the Muslim Dalits are often classified as areas (Jodhka & Shah, 2010). The Harijans – the ‘downtrodden’ people– emphasize that scholars have identified them as exploited, oppressed, and excluded through generations (Azad, October 2016). The Harijan is a term for untouchable, coined by Mahatma Gandhi, which means ‘Children of God’ here ‘Hari’ is another name for the god ‘Vishnu’ (higher level godhead). The Harijans have described of The American Heritage published Dictionary of English language as ‘Child of God’ (Vadivel, 2016). In India, they are at the bottom of or outside the Hindu caste system (Aharon, 2005; Beteille, 2012; Bouglé, 1971).

Moreover Bangladesh combines multi-cultural and multi-religious countries, three major religions- Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism traditionally, these religions profoundly have been impacted on Bangladeshi societies (Rahman, 2013). Among various religious groups in Bangladesh, Muslims represent 89.6 percent majority, and non-Muslims constitute the remaining 10.4 percent of the Bangladesh population (Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), June 2015). As per the 2010 Census, among the non-Muslims, Hindus are the dominant group, with about 10 percent Buddhists and Christians constituting less than one percent of the Bangladeshi population (Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), June 2015). Based on the economic engagement of the people, the percentage of Dalits (a member of the lower caste; fisher, weaver, blacksmith, potters, and goldsmith) is 1.11 percent. Noticeably, one percent of the total population of Bangladesh is the Harijans (BBS, 2011). They were traditionally sweepers, washers of clothes, and leatherworkers. Many now refer to themselves as Dalits to indicate their oppressed position outside Hindu society (Ana, February 2016). Because of their marginalized social status, they face different unexpected situations in the community and outer community. They always need to interact with mainstream people for any necessary things.

Despite their unprivileged lifestyle and discriminated social position, they have to cope with a self-sustained survival mechanism. The self-sustained mechanism is regarded as the culture of resistance in this study. The culture of resistance refers to action against cultural norms in a particular unprivileged community (Duncombe, 2007). Besides, it is induced and perpetuated clashes between dominant and alternative cultural meanings developed by mainstream society and marginalized subgroups accordingly (Mattson & Duncombe, 1992). According to M Foucault, “where there is resistance, there is power.” His work on resistance influenced by Bourdieu and Gramsci recognized and theorized the importance of ideological practice in power and resistance and emphasized determining the distinctions between symbolic and instrumental, behavioral and ideological, cultural, social, and political processes. He also suggested that resistance is a diagnostic of power (Foucault, 1978).

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