Skip to main content Accessibility help

Between Solidarity and Complicity: The Politics of Representation in Bhimayana

  • Nandini Ramesh Sankar (a1) and Deepsikha Changmai (a2)


The solidarity between socially marginalized groups in India is often compromised, directly or indirectly, by their own internecine complicity with structures and histories of systematic social violence. We look at this problem through a close analysis of the graphic novel Bhimayana, which brings together key events from the life of B. R. Ambedkar—the architect of the Indian Constitution who was born into the “untouchable” Mahar caste—and the artwork of the Gond tribal artists Durgabai and Subhash Vyam. While there is considerable affinity in terms of socioeconomic disadvantages between the tribes and the lower castes of India, these affinities are strained by contradictions that problematize the principle of solidarity. We argue that the intrusion of complicity and guilt into performances of solidarity finally serves to strengthen the political empowerment of these groups by making it possible to acknowledge their implication in the history of social harm.



Hide All
Ambedkar, B. R. 1945a. “Communal Deadlock and a Way to Solve It.” (accessed February 28, 2019).
Ambedkar, B. R.. 1945b. What Congress and Gandhi Have Done to the Untouchables. Delhi: Gautam Book Centre.
Ambedkar, B. R.. 1993. “Waiting for a Visa.” In Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, ed. Moon, Vasant, 12:661–91. Bombay: Education Department, Government of Maharashtra.
Ambedkar, B. R.. 2014. Annihilation of Caste: The Annotated Critical Edition. Edited by Anand, S.. New Delhi: Navayana.
Ambedkar Age Collective. 2016. Hatred in the Belly: Politics behind the Appropriation of Dr. Ambedkar's Writings. E-book. Hyderabad: Shared Mirror.
Anand, S. 2005. “Notes on My Brahmin Self.” Insight: Young Voices of Dalit Assertion, September 10. (accessed February 28, 2019).
Arendt, Hannah. 2000. “Organized Guilt and Universal Responsibility.” In The Portable Hannah Arendt, ed. Baehr, Peter, 146–56. New York: Penguin.
Arendt, Hannah. 2003. “Collective Responsibility.” In Responsibility and Judgment, ed. Kohn, Jerome, 147–97. New York: Schocken Books.
Arni, Samhita, and Chitrakar, Moyna. 2011. Sita's Ramayana. Chennai: Tara Books.
Barthes, Roland. 1972. Mythologies. Translated by Lavers, Annette. New York: Noonday.
Bayertz, Kurt. 1999a. “Four Uses of Solidarity.” In Solidarity, ed. Bayertz, Kurt, 328. Translated by Kirkby, Sarah L.. London: Kluwer.10.1007/978-94-015-9245-1_1
Bayertz, Kurt, ed. 1999b. Solidarity. Translated by Kirkby, Sarah L.. London: Kluwer.
Berger, John. 1983. “Caravaggio: A Contemporary View.” Studio International 196(998).
Bhatia, Gautam. 2010. Lie: A Traditional Tale of Modern India. New Delhi: Tranquebar Press.
Bhura, Sneha. 2015. “The Gond Invasion.” Open Magazine, October 20. (accessed March 22, 2018).
Presidency, Bombay. 1884. Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, Vol 20: Sholapur. Bombay: Government Central Press.
Bowles, John H. 2009. Painted Songs and Stories: Hybrid Flowerings of Contemporary Pardhan Gond Art. Bhopal: INTACH Bhopal Chapter.
Brunner, Emil. 1952. Dogmatics II: The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption. Translated by Wyon, Olive. Cambridge: Clarke.
Camus, Albert. 1951. L'homme revolté [The rebel]. Paris: Gallimard.
Camus, Albert. 1991. The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt. Translated by Bower, Anthony. E-book. New York: Vintage.
Chandra, Kanchan. 2004. Why Ethnic Parties Succeed: Patronage and Ethnic Head Counts in India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/9781108573481
Chandra, Nandini. 2011. “Ambedkar Out of the Frame.” Biblio (March–April):22–23.
Dhighe, Ramesh, and Barve, Reshma. 2018a. Madhibani shailitil chitransah: Blue panchatantra. Pune: Manovikas prakashan.
Dhighe, Ramesh, and Barve, Reshma. 2018b. Madhibani shailitil chitransah: Orange panchatantra. Pune: Manovikas prakashan.
Douglas, Tara. 2014. “Tales of the Tribes: Pardhan Gond Adoption of New Media.” South Asianist 3(1):1827.
Drucker, Johanna. 2005. Sweet Dreams: Contemporary Art and Complicity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Elwin, Verrier. 1951. The Tribal Art of Middle India. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fitzgerald, M. V., and Nelson, A. E., eds. 1911. Central Provinces District Gazetteers: Amraoti District. Vol 1: Descriptive. Bombay: Claridge.
Flowers, Arthur, and Chitrakar, Manu. 2010. I See the Promised Land: A Life of Martin Luther King Jr. Chennai: Tara Books.
Gandhi, Rajmohan. 2007. Mohandas: A True Story of a Man, His People and an Empire. New Delhi: Penguin.
Gopani, Chandraiah. 2018. “New Dalit Movements: An Ambedkarite Perspective.” In The Radical in Ambedkar: Critical Reflections, eds. Yengde, Suraj and Teltumbde, Anand. E-book. Gurugram: Penguin Random House.
Guha, Ramachandra. 2018. Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World, 1914–1948. Gurgaon: Penguin Random House.
Guha, Ranajit. 1982a. “On Some Aspects of Historiography in Colonial India.” In Subaltern Studies 1: Writings on South Asian History and Society, ed. Guha, Ranajit, 18. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Guha, Ranajit, ed. 1982b. Subaltern Studies 1: Writings on South Asian History and Society. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Hebden, Keith. 2011. Dalit Theology and Christian Anarchism. Surrey, UK: Ashgate.
Hivale, Shamrao. 1946. The Pardhans of the Upper Narbada Valley. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Holmberg, Ryan. 2013. “Inverted Calm: An Interview with Vishwajyoti Ghosh.” Comics Journal, October 23. (accessed August 31, 2019).
Horkheimer, Max, and Adorno, Theodor W.. 2002. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments. Translated by Jephcott, Edmund. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.
The Indian Statutory Commission. 1930. The Indian Statutory Commission, Vol 16: Selections from Memoranda and Oral Evidence by Non-officials, Part 1. London: His Majesty's Stationery Office.
Jaspers, Karl. 2000. The Question of German Guilt. Translated by Ashton, E. B.. New York: Fordham University Press.
Jimparsons73. 2015. “Jangarh's Work at Magiciens De La Terre.” Image. Wikipedia, August 8. (accessed September 1, 2019).
Kumar, Aishwary. 2015. Radical Equality: Ambedkar, Gandhi, and the Risk of Democracy. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.
Kumar, Raj. 1900. Early History of Jammu Region: Pre-Historic to 6th Century A.D. Vol. 1. New Delhi: Kalpaz.
Kutz, Christopher. 2000. Complicity: Ethics and Law for a Collective Age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511663758
Martin, John-Hubert, et al. , eds. 1989. Magiciens de la terre [Magicians of the earth]. Paris: Editions du Centre Pompidou.
Maughan, Philip. 2015. “‘I Think the Dead Are with Us’: John Berger at 88.” New Statesman, June 11. (accessed August 31, 2019).
McFarland, Ian A. 2010. In Adam's Fall: A Meditation on the Christian Doctrine of Original Sin. Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
McGann, Jerome. 2007. “Modernity and Complicity: A Conversation with Johanna Drucker.” In The Point Is to Change It: Poetry and Criticism in the Continuing Present, 205–20. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. n.d. “About” (accessed September 1, 2019).
Nayar, Pramod K. 2012. “Towards a Postcolonial Critical Literacy: Bhimayana and the Indian Graphic Novel.” Studies in South Asian Film and Media 3(1):321.10.1386/safm.3.1.3_1
Omvedt, Gail. 1991. “The Anti-caste Movement and the Discourse of Power.” Race & Class 33(2):1527.
Omvedt, Gail. [1995] 2006. Dalit Visions: The Anti-Caste Movement and the Construction of an Indian Identity. Hyderabad: Orient Longman.
Omvedt, Gail. 2005. “Capitalism and Globalisation, Dalits and Adivasis.” Economic and Political Weekly 40(47):4881–85.
Oza, Vasvi. 2012. “Questions of Reading and Readership of Pictorial Texts: The Case of Bhimayana, a Pictorial Biography of Dr. Ambedkar.” Journal of Writing in Creative Practice 4(3):351–65.
Paswan, Sanjay, and Jaideva, Pramanshi. 2002. Encyclopedia of Dalits in India: Movements. Delhi: Kalpaz.
Purves, Robin, and Ladkin, Sam, eds. 2007. Complicities: British Poetry 1945–2007. Prague: Litteraria Pragensia.
Rajkumari, and Grover, Varun. 2018. Biksu. New Delhi: Jugnoo prakashan.
Ramesh Sankar, Nandini. 2017. “Complicity and Cambridge Poetry.” Textual Practice 31(4):805–21.
Rao, D. Venkat. 2014. Cultures of Memory in South Asia: Orality, Literacy and the Problem of Inheritance. New Delhi: Springer.10.1007/978-81-322-1698-8
Rao, Y. Srinivasa. 2017. “Problematic Dalit Middle Class.” Round Table India, November 3. (accessed August 31, 2019).
Riley, Denise. 2000. The Words of Selves: Identification, Solidarity, Irony. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.
Rorty, Richard. 1989. Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511804397
Roy, Arundhati. 2014. “The Doctor and the Saint.” In Annihilation of Caste: The Annotated Critical Edition, by Ambedkar, B. R., 15179. Edited by Anand, S.. New Delhi: Navayana.
Sabhaney, Vidyun. 2015. “Broken Lines.” In Drawing the Line: Indian Women Fight Back!, eds. Kuriyan, Priya, Bertonasco, Larissa, Bartscht, Ludmilla, and Burton, Nicole Marie. Ontario, Canada: Ad Astra Comix.
Sajad, Malik. 2015. Munnu: A Boy from Kashmir. London: Fourth Estate.
Sen, Orijit. 1994. The River of Stories. New Delhi: Kalpavriksh.
Shakyamuni, . 2016. “The Brahmean Machine: Distorting Revolt into Surrender.” In Hatred in the Belly: Politics behind the Appropriation of Dr. Ambedkar's Writings, ed. Ambedkar Age Collective. E-book. Hyderabad: Shared Mirror.
Shaviro, Steven. 1990. “Complicity and Forgetting.” MLN 105(4):819–32.10.2307/2905240
Shyam, Venkat Raman Singh, and Anand, S.. 2016. Finding My Way. New Delhi: Juggernaut.
Singh, K. S. 2003. “Tribals and Freedom Struggle.” In Essays on Indian Freedom Movement, ed. Kumar, Raj, 110–21. New Delhi: Discovery Publishing House.
Singh, Khushwant. 2007. “Humourless Tam-Brahms: A Class Apart.” Tribune (Chandigarh, India), March 10. (accessed February 28, 2018).
Skaria, Ajay. 1999. Hybrid Histories: Forests, Frontiers and Wildness in Western India. New York: Oxford University Press.
Sreenivas, Deepa. 2010. Sculpting a Middle Class: History, Masculinity, and the Amar Chitra Katha in India. Delhi: Routledge.
Teltumbde, Anand. 2008. Khairlanji: A Strange and Bitter Crop. New Delhi: Navayana.
Teltumbde, Anand. 2010. The Persistence of Caste: The Khairlanji Murders and India's Hidden Apartheid. London: Zed Books.
Tully, Mark. 1992. No Full Stops in India. London: Penguin.
Varma, Rashmi. 2013. “Primitive Accumulation: The Political Economy of Indigenous Art in Postcolonial India.” Third Text 27(6):748–61.
Vyam, Durgabai, Vyam, Subhash, Natarajan, Srividya, and Anand, S.. 2011. Bhimayana: Experiences of Untouchability. New Delhi: Navayana.
Waghmore, Suryakant. 2013. Civility against Caste: Dalit Politics and Citizenship in Western India. New Delhi: Sage Publications.
Yengde, Suraj. 2018. “Why We Need Dalit.” Indian Express, September 6. (accessed August 31, 2019).
Yusufji, Salim. 2017. Ambedkar: The Attendant Details. New Delhi: Navayana.


Between Solidarity and Complicity: The Politics of Representation in Bhimayana

  • Nandini Ramesh Sankar (a1) and Deepsikha Changmai (a2)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.