Gail Omvedt (1964)

Writer, Research, and Activist

I was born in Minneapolis, went to Carleton College, and came out to Berkeley only after my first year in India, in 1963-64, returning to India in 1970-71 to do my Ph. D. dissertation and then to finally 'settle' there in 1978. So I have taken something of the 'great years' of the 60s from Berkeley to India ­ and vice versa! When trying to combine living in India and teaching at San Diego didn't work, I quit and went to India. I had married into a middle caste ('Bahujan') 'rich peasant' farming family in western India and have 'settled' in the large 'village' of Kasegaon (my daughter calls it a 'town' in her poems but by Indian definition it's a village) in southern Maharashtra, with Bharat and other members of an Indian joint family. I've been an Indian citizen since 1983.

The social movements I've been involved with included the Dalit and anti-caste movements, environmental movements, farmers? and women?s movements, but at present I'm most active in the anti-caste movement. To tell the truth, I am a kind of 'mother figure' (along with one other American, Eleanor Zelliot) to many Dalits. One way of putting the problems people of my category has been expressed by one Indian friend ­ "I don't have an address." I've had a variety of occupations, which might be described as 'upscale unorganized sector' jobs. Most recent is a three-year position as Senior Fellow at Teen Murti in Delhi (a prestigious place and it has the advantage that I don't have to be there very much of the time but with no computer facilities).

My most important books include, most recently a forthcoming really wild book that falls in between 'activist journalism' and 'expert scholarship', Buddhism in India; Challenge to Brahmanism and Caste; I'm also getting into translation from Marathi ­ Growing Up Untouchable: A Dalit Autobiography, you can use it for all kinds of introductory courses!

Dissertation Title: 
Cultural Revolt in a Colonial Society: The NonBrahman Movement in Western India, 1873-1930
Dissertation Book Title: 
Cultural revolt in a colonial society : the non Brahman movement in western India, 1873 to 1930