Cabalion, Joël, and Julien Jugand. 2023. “Bhim Geet and the Ambedkarite Movement: The Genesis of a Cultural Field of Protest.” South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal 31.

Dr. Joël Cabalion, researcher and head of the ‘Questioning Development: Models, Dynamics, Impact’ research areas at CSH Delhi with Julien Jugand, an associate researcher at CREM-LESC, wrote an article “Bhim Geet and the Ambedkarite Movement: The Genesis of a Cultural Field of Protest”, published in the 31st issue Art and Activism in South Asia of South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, on 31 December 2023.

The article is available at:

Abstract: This paper sketches the history of a cultural and artistic music category called Bhim Geet (or Bheem Geet), songs to Bhimrao Ambedkar, principal redactor of the Indian Constitution and political hero of the Dalits. By examining this aesthetic construct and its social milieu, we trace back and uncover through the lens of music and artistic performances some of the tensions and stakes the Dalits were up against in Maharashtra from a cultural point of view. What does it entail to sing caste struggles in contemporary India? What does emancipation mean for Dalits, both culturally and aesthetically? Ambedkar’s caste conversion to Buddhism in Nagpur in 1956 is now a relatively well-known episode of India’s postcolonial history. It is less known how the ex-Mahar caste, alternately called Buddhists, neo-Buddhists or Ambedkarites, have reconstructed themselves from an inseparably aesthetic and social point of view. We intend to address this lack and show how circulating cultural practices have enabled the construction of a subaltern kind of nationalism. These practices have also made possible legalist dissent through musical narratives widely influenced by Muslim poetry and musical forms, such as Qawwali, although Hindu devotional styles more commonly found in bhajan and kirtan, which are widespread musical genres in India and beyond, have also had an impact. A small fieldwork video accompanies this article and begins by proposing a few sonic examples to its readers to illustrate this significant variation and pool of influences within the category of Bhim Geet.

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