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Author: Kalpana Ram


This essay uses Dalit women’s mediumship as a healing tradition that provides something of a “limit situation” from which to review basic assumptions about the varied ways in which we can understand what it is to “have” tradition—as an acquisition and inheritance that Dalit women enjoy like everyone else, but also as formal claims to value and recognition that are largely denied to Dalit women. Comparing Dalit women healers with male performers in ritual theater and more privileged healers in rural Tamil Nadu, the essay addresses dimensions of inequality comparatively neglected in studies of tradition as either constructed or invented within modernity. The essay moves us away from discussions of tradition that center on conscious claims to a consideration of the elements that mean that some traditions may never reach the level of being articulated as claims, let alone achieve recognition.

In: Asian Medicine