Over the course of the twentieth century, Bombay’s population grew twentyfold as the city became increasingly industrialized and cosmopolitan. Yet beneath a veneer of modernity, old prejudices endured, including the treatment of the Dalits. Even as Indians engaged with aspects of modern life, including the Marxist discourse of class, caste distinctions played a pivotal role in determining who was excluded from the city’s economic transformations. Labor historian Juned Shaikh documents the symbiosis between industrial capitalism and the caste system, mapping the transformation of the city as urban planners marked Dalit neighborhoods as slums that needed to be demolished in order to build a modern Bombay.
Drawing from rare sources written by the urban poor and Dalits in the Marathi language—including novels, poems, and manifestos—Outcaste Bombay examines how language and literature became a battleground for cultural politics. Through careful scrutiny of one city’s complex social fabric, this study illuminates issues that remain vital for labor activists and urban planners around the world.