Although Dalit literature has had a long and variegated presence in Bengal, especially through the oral traditions of Bauls, Fakirs, Sufis and other popular sects, it remains a relatively neglected area in Dalit studies and has only recently found greater visibility via translation. Under My Dark Skin Flows a Red River, seeks to fill this gap with an anthology that combines historical and theoretical frameworks with samples of creative writing across diverse genres.
While anthologies must necessarily be selective, inevitably leaving us with a sense that we have touched the tip of an iceberg, the present selection succeeds in capturing a wide range of voices, including some prominent ones such as Kapil Kumar Thakur, Achintya Biswas, Mouli Manohar Biswas, Manju Bala, Adwaita Mallbarman, Manoranjan Byapari, Kalyani Thakur Charal, Sudhir Mallik and Lily Haldar. A variety of forms are represented in separate sections, including stories, novels, essays, songs, poetry and life writing. The section on Dalit periodicals at the end of the volume offers a window to the presence of Dalit voices outside mainstream publishing, in the world of little magazines and other platforms that offer a space for the articulation of alternative writing practices, often at odds with the dominant literary establishment. In the spectrum of genres, autobiography—a late entrant to the field of Bengali Dalit writing—nevertheless occupies a significant position, located at the cusp of the personal and the political, and gesturing at collective as well as individual experience.