Raj Gauthaman (born 1950, Virudhnagar) is a leading Tamil intellectual who was part of a core group of writers and thinkers, many of whom were Dalits, which shaped the thinking of the influential little magazine, Nirapirikai in the early 1990s. He is currently Head of the Tamil Department at the Kanchi Mamunivar Centre for Postgraduate Studies in Pondicherry.
The energy of Tamil Dalit movement and Gauthaman's distinct contribution to it is captured in two widely cited works, Dalit Panpaadu (Dalit Culture, 1993) and Dalit Paarvaiyil Tamil Panpaadu (Tamil Culture from a Dalit Perspective, 1994).
Dalit Paarvaiyil Tamil Panpaadu argues that analyzed carefully from below, mainstream Tamil culture reveals itself, not as a unified expression of Tamil achievement, but as comprising heterogenous strands. It is in many ways a critique of the canonized non-Brahmin version of the Tamil past. Gauthaman's narrative is interrupted at specific points by an ordinary Dalit who brings in the freshness of a local dialect to question and comment on the account. At one point the Dalit interlocutor asks why students are never taught these things. The answer, 'they say such things are not interesting; literature has to be appreciated and enjoyed; it is not politics,' opens out onto another major achievement of these books and of the Nirapirikai group—the repositioning of literary and cultural texts outside the confines of the aesthetic.
Gauthaman cites among his formative influences the works of Ranajit Guha, Bakhtin, Foucault and Nietzsche.
Raj Gauthaman is the elder brother of the celebrated Tamil novelist Bama. He wrote the foreword to her first collection of stories, Kusumbukkaran.