The Trauma of Caste is a Dalit Feminist meditation on survivorship, healing and abolition.
I wrote this book so that we would have a book that finally looked at Caste that centered in how we might heal from this system of exclusion. It ties Dalit oppression to fights for liberation among Black, Indigenous, Latinx, femme, and Queer communities, examining caste from a feminist, abolitionist, and Dalit Buddhist perspective–and laying bare the grief, trauma, rage, and stolen futures enacted by Brahminical social structures of the caste-oppressed.
I wrote it as we face some of the challenging religious violence in our communities. And Dalit peoples as survivors of religious violence and have so much to share at this moment. It is more than anything a love letter to all of us trying to heal from systems of violence and a call that we can even this movement find the visionary path forward to free all of us.
This book is written in the spirit of the idea that the opposite of genocide is to fight for life. So this is a love letter to all people struggling with the horror of this moment. People on the front lines who have already lost people. People who shudder and weep and stay up at night, deeply gripped by anxiety about the shadow of genocide that is imminent, growling like a starving beast. This is a letter to the many hearts that are broken or languishing in despair and anxiety. It is overwhelming for the people of the subcontinent to think about what responsibilities come in the face of this.
The Trauma of Caste Also Explores:
- How to join the caste abolition movement.
- A glossary of terms for readers new to the concept of caste.
- Accessible profiles of anti-caste historical figures.
- An interactive worksheet for you to do your own work to unlearn and challenge caste, and make commitments to caste equity.
- An appendix with body-based exercises to support creating your own caste-equity mindfulness practice.
- The connection between caste-based oppression and genocide.
- The role big tech plays in upholding caste bias and discrimination and how to work towards tangible corporate accountability.
- Why building transnational solidarity is critical.
- Buddhism’s historical roles in both challenging and upholding caste.
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“We are in an unprecedented time when Dalit people are coming out. I would ask you to listen so that we might act. To bring about healing from all systems of oppression. To bring about the world that comes next. To begin that which starts with revolutionary grace but ends with unapologetic freedom. ”Tarana Burke, Founder of the ‘me too’ movement.
“Caste is one of the urgent moral, multifaith issues of our time, and The Trauma of Caste is a critical intervention, helping us to better understand how caste operates, what it feels like, and most importantly, why we must work to abolish it, once and for all.”Simran Jeet Singh, executive director for the Aspen Institute’s Religion & Society Program and author of The Light We Give
“The Trauma of Caste places the experiences of Dalit people firmly at the center of a global story about race and caste they have long been excluded from and uses that experience to teach us all about power, about survival, about changemaking.… Every Black activist should read this book, every immigrant rights activist should read this book, every survivor of violence should read this book—because it holds within it seeds for our collective future.”Malkia Devich Cyril, founding director of MediaJustice and principal at the Radical Loss Project
“The Trauma of Caste deconstructs caste oppression and considers possibilities for healing through a Dalit American feminist lens, in conversation with the writings not only of Dalit thinkers but of those from Black, Indigenous, and other historically exploited communities.… As a Dalit American, I am inspired by Soundararajan’s important efforts to raise awareness about caste and bring about healing.”Vauhini Vara, journalist and author of Immortal King Rao
“Thenmozhi Soundararajan provides a historical context and contemporary framework for difficult yet courageous conversations around caste apartheid and why we must work to disrupt and end it. Her call for action isn’t solely theoretical and political. Hers is a meditation that asks us to be aware of our mind-body-heart connection as we are called to the fire.”Aishah Shahidah Simmons, producer/director of NO! The Rape Documentary and editor of Love WITH Accountability
“Thenmozhi Soundararajan is the most profound and prophetic Dalit American voice of her generation. The Trauma of Caste is a trailblazing and pathbreaking work that rips the veil of Brahmin supremacy in the South Asian diaspora within the United States as well as across the world.… I urge everyone to read this book and pass it forward for these are the genocidal times that try our souls. Let the fire of resistance free all our oppressed peoples.”Professor Cornel West, New York Times best-selling author of Race Matters, Democracy Matters, and Black Prophetic Fire
“… an irresistible cri de coeur, The Trauma of Caste is at once an embodied meditation and simultaneously a literary hand grenade blowing open the torturous prison and agony of caste.… Thenmozhi makes clear that as genocide and ethnonationalism looms in South Asia, the stakes have never been higher. The responsibility for change cannot be on the shoulders of the oppressed. It is up to each and every one of us to rise for Dalit people now.”V (formerly Eve Ensler), author of The Vagina Monologues and The Apology
“This deeply spiritually grounded meditation on the trauma and afterlives of caste apartheid deserves our global intersectional feminist solidarity. Thenmozhi Soundararajan shows us in this book that the work of freedom must happen not only in the head and the heart, but also in the body. She has me convinced that the work of eliminating caste, a dominating system that predates white supremacy, will help to free us all.”Brittney Cooper, author Eloquent Rage and Beyond Respectability
“In Thenmozhi’s stories there is much to learn not only about caste in the United States, but the trauma caste engenders for all of us. As a Shudra sufferer of caste in India, I urge everyone to read this book. It is essential reading for all those committed to dignity, human rights, and a caste-free world.”Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, author of The Shudras, From a Shepherd Boy to an Intellectual, and Why I Am Not a Hindu