Caste and Identity Formation of Dalits in Southern India
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Identity is central to the psychological functioning of members of an oppressed minority. Based on the structure of the caste system, Dalits occupy the lowest position in Indian society and encounter frequent discrimination and marginalization. This study investigates how the caste system influences components and formation of identity in Dalit individuals. The study was based on thirty-five individual and group discussions attempting to answer the question, "What does it mean to be a Dalit?" Dalit participants illustrated that the experience of discrimination, religious affiliation, caste disclosure, and educational success were important factors in Dalit identities. The experiences of discrimination, educational success, and in some cases religion were vital to forming a positive Dalit identity. In order to empower an oppressed community and overcome injustice it is important to explore what factors lead to achieving a positive and confident identity.