Title page for ETD etd-04022004-141635

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Kamen, Gale Ellen
Author's Email Address Gkamen@aol.com
URN etd-04022004-141635
Title The Status, Survival, and Current Dilemma of a Female Dalit Cobbler of India
Degree PhD
Department Adult Learning and Human Resource Development
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Boucouvalas, Marcie Committee Chair
Cline, Marvin Gerald Committee Member
Combs, Letitia A. Committee Member
Klunk, Clare D. Committee Member
Morris, Linda E. Committee Member
  • Keywords: Dalit
  • oppression
  • hierarchy
  • caste
  • untouchable
Date of Defense 2004-03-02
Availability unrestricted
Gale Kamen

Historically, oppression has been and continues to be a serious issue of concern worldwide in both developed and underdeveloped countries. The structure of Indian society, with its hierarchies and power structures, is an ideal place to better understand the experience of oppression. Women throughout the long established Indian hierarchy, and members of the lower castes and classes, have traditionally born the force of oppression generated by the Indian social structure. The focus of this research explored the way the way class, caste, and gender hierarchies coalesce to influence the life choices and experiences of an Indian woman born into the lowest level of the caste and class structure. This research specifically addressed the female Dalit cobbler (leatherworker), who exists among a caste and class of people who have been severely oppressed throughout Indian history. O ne female Dalit cobbler from a rural village was studied. Her life represents three levels of oppression: females (gender), Dalits (caste), and cobblers (class). This study was based on three interconnected research questions that attempted to uncover the way class, caste, and gender hierarchies influence the lives of Dalit female cobblers: what the Dalit female cobbler has experienced in terms of economic, personal, and social struggle; how the Dalit female cobbler manages to get through her day-to-day struggles; and where the Dalit female cobbler sees herself in the future. Participant observation and triangulation were major components in the design of this study, as it was important to view the local daily life of this individual. Detailed field notes were colleted and recorded, interviews based on open-ended questions were conducted, and site documents were gathered. The findings that have become evident throughout this observation have increasingly exposed one continuous theme in particular: the ‘lived' experience and position that one must accept his or her station in life without question. This dissertation, however, has shown how acceptance does not mean that one stops trying to thrive. On the contrary, the life of this particular female Dalit cobbler exemplifies the ingenuity and perseverance of people who are not members of the dominant social structure. It demonstrates how one individual had the ability to negotiate multiple levels of oppression and succeed in sustaining herself, her family, and her community.

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