Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Communication (Communication)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Christina Lane

Second Committee Member

Shara Toursh Pavlow

Third Committee Member

Sanjeev Chatterjee

Fourth Committee Member

John W. Murphy


This study aims to contribute to the theoretical discourse of Communication for Social Change (CSC) by expanding its theoretical scope beyond its current framework. The current theoretical framework of CSC is dualistic, with one-way modernization-diffusion paradigm on one end and the two-way dialogue-participation paradigm on the other. I argue that the understanding of both these paradigms in CSC discourse is based on planned and externally-driven approaches to social change. Such planned theoretical perspectives are insufficient for the purpose of explaining the autonomous struggles of marginalized, disadvantaged, and subaltern communities. I propose a third category for consideration in the theoretical framework of CSC, that accommodates bottom-up autonomous communication of subaltern communities for social change. Such subaltern CSC often may lack resources used in the planned approaches and are informed by subaltern cultures and practices. I argue that the study of subaltern CSC needs different theoretical perspectives than those which traditionally guide the field of CSC. This study aims to explore and map some of the aspects of subaltern communication through the struggles of manual scavenging communities in Mumbai, Maharashtra. A sanitation worker manually handling human waste is called a manual scavenger. The subaltern communities of manual scavengers in India are fighting to end this caste-enforced practice and the discrimination and untouchability they are subjected to by the dominating communities in the country. Their struggles also include fighting their economic conditions on a regular basis, being marginalized and deprived from education and wealth for ages. My study attempts to bring attention to their many struggles in addition to exploring the theoretical and practical aspects of subaltern CSC and contribute to the theoretical discourse on the subject.


communication for social change; India; manual scavenging; narrative inquiry; social change; subaltern communication