(English captions & Hindi subtitles available)
About the Seminar:
The caste system is one of the earliest forms of inequality in human history. It was codified as a social order by Manu in the second century as Manusmriti (Codes of Manu). However, the caste's taxonomy, with its Eurocentric etymology, sounds like a modern phenomenon that disguises its precolonial lineage. Professor Jangam challenges postcolonial narratives on caste and makes a basic argument that caste predates colonialism.
About the Speaker:
Chinnaiah Jangam is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Carleton University. Previously, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the International Center for Advanced Studies at New York University from 2005-06. His research focuses on the social and intellectual history of Dalits in modern South Asia. His first book, Dalits and the Making of Modern India (Oxford University Press, 2017), presents Dalit perspectives on nationalism and argues that Dalits were equal participants in the imagination and politics of the formation of independent India. Dalits argued for the abolition of untouchability and the ending of caste inequality, with its accompanying humiliations, as preconditions for independence. Dalits imagined a nation founded on principles of justice, liberty, equality, and human dignity. These eventually became the foundational principles of the Indian Constitution drafted under the guidance of B.R. Ambedkar, a Dalit.
Professor Jangam was awarded the Felix Fellowship and Harry Frank Guggenheim Dissertation Fellowship for Doctoral Studies. He earned an M.A. in History from the University of Hyderabad; an M. Phil. in Modern Indian History from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and a Ph. D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
Welcome everyone, to the Center for the Advanced Study of India, CASI, at The University of Pennsylvania. My name is Tariq Thachil and I'm the Director of CASI. It's a pleasure to have you at our weekly Thursday seminars.
Just for those of you who've been following us through the year, this is our penultimate seminar. We're going to have our last seminar of the year on April 22nd with Professor Sanjeev Routray from the University of British Columbia, speaking on Numerical Citizenship Struggles in Contemporary Delhi.
We will have a special event on April 15th. That's a week from today, at 10:00 in the morning with Uma Mahadevan who is the Principal Secretary of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department, Government of Karnataka. She'll be speaking on local governance and decentralization in Karnataka. Again, that's at 10:00 AM East Coast time.
Today, we're delighted to be able to host and welcome back to CASI, Professor Chinnaiah Jangam who's an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Carleton University.
Previously, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at The International Center for Advanced Studies at NYU, and has degrees from the University of Hyderabad, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, from which he received his PhD in history and where his work was supported by the Felix Fellowship and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Dissertation Fellowship.
Professor Jangam's work has focused on the social and intellectual history of Dalits in modern South Asia. His first book, Dalits and the Making of Modern India was published by Oxford University Press in 2017. In this book he presents Dalit perspectives on nationalism and argues that Dalits were equal participants in the imagination and the politics of the formation of independent India.
His research articles have appeared in a number of journals, including Modern Asian Studies, Economic and Political Weekly, and The Indian Economic and Social History Review.
He's currently engaged in a number of research projects, including a study of the everyday experiences of the educated Dalit middle class, particularly within urban India. A long-duree history of caste, which I believe he will draw on for today's talk, which is comprising the crux of his new book project.
I have to acknowledge that professor Jangam has already contributed significantly to CASI's intellectual activities, both in his participation in the Center's 2008 Dalit Studies Conference and his subsequent written contribution to the edited volume entitled, Dalit Studies which was published in 2016 by Duke University Press.
It's a great pleasure to welcome you back, Chinnaiah, to CASI for your talk which is titled, Decolonizing Caste and Rethinking Social Inequality in South Asia. Before I turn it over, please just remember that any questions that you have, will be asked in the Q&A session, which will be the second half of our hour together.
Please pose any questions, type them out to me in the chat box directly, Tariq Thachil. Please do not post comments or questions in the overall chat box to everyone. Any questions you have, send it to me directly. Then I will keep a list and call on you to ask your question to Chinnaiah. Again, we'll get to as many as we can.
With that, thanks once again, everyone, for joining us. Chinnaiah, please. The floor is yours.
Thank you. Can you hear me?
Yes. We can hear you.
Thank you very much, and Jai Bhim to you all, and Happy Dalit History Month. We are now in a very interesting time and also, it coincided with my lecture and I'm very happy.
As Tariq pointed out, I have a long association with CASI and UPenn. In fact, my career launch, sort of thing has happened there. I'm really, really happy to be back and also, to be part of this vibrant intellectual conversations.
Today's talk, what I propose to do is part of my new book project which I'm trying to do, a long-duree history of caste in India, particularly going back to the age into, all the way up to the modern making of the caste.
In this context what I am trying to see is that there is a continuity, the way in which caste continues historically, all through the different phases of history, particularly how it survives, from ancient to the modern times, despite changes in political dynasties and socioeconomic, particularly economic structures and different political formations.
One of the important things I see that, caste as a template continues as a very important frame of social structure through which the South Asian subcontinent gets reformulated and also reenvisioned at different phases.
In this context, one of the important things before I go into the crux of my lecture, I wanted to recap with you. Most of the people who are attending, definitely would be familiar with what caste in India is and how it operates.
For people who are not familiar, and also to make my arguments understandable I would like to tell you, start with this idea of caste template. One of the important things about caste histories or caste social formation in India is that this whole idea that Brahminical imagination of the caste, from the originator, the Brahma, from whose body, all the castes, particularly emanated from, are born from.
In this context, what you see is that the head, Brahmin and also Kshatriyas as warriors, came from shoulders. Vaisyas from the thighs and Sudras from the feet. In this context, what you see is that Dalits as outcast community are not born from the body of the God.
In this context what you see is that Dalits and Adivasis were always outside the purview of the imagined social structure or the divinely ordained structure of society. In this context what we see is that caste template, what happens is that it also, while working on the basis of principles of caste hierarchy and also, privilege and also, disprivileges, and access to education and material resources is bulked into the caste.
In this context what we see is that this template ... One of the important things we have to understand is that the fundamental, structural template of the caste remains intact throughout history. In this context, that's one of the reasons why, if you look at the social history of caste, where we see that caste is by birth, and it exists, as Ambedkar showed in his analyzation of caste.
That caste is not singular. Caste is plural existence. In this context what you see is that the Varna society, which has been imagined as this four Varnas, in the beginning, gets divided into multiple castes. In this multiple divisions within the caste system, one of the important thing is that each subcaste gets, again, divided. Also, the whole idea of hierarchy between them.
That's one of the reasons why, within the Varna you see that there are different castes, and within that there are different ways in which this hierarchy and also purity and pollution gets organized. With this, what you see is that caste as a social structure, gets organized into watertight compartments.
In this, one of the important thing is that the whole idea that intercaste marriages and inter-dining gets prohibited between different castes within Varna. In this context what happens is that, caste hierarchy become intrinsic to the very idea of social structure in India.
With this, what you see is that the way in which, unlike class, where the division of labor is central to the idea of social division and also economic organization of society, one of the important things about caste system is that it is not division of labor. It is division of laborers. Therefore, what happens is that the caste contempt or stigma acts as a very central, organizing feature in caste system.
With this, what you see is that, when it's conceived as the very fundamental aspect of Hindu social structures, one of the important aspect is that it gets codified. I think in human history, one of the oldest codified social structures is, I think, caste system.
In this context what happens is that, in fact within that, caste is not codified. It always remained orally transmitted and it had lot of flexibility. In fact, the Manu Dharma Shastra is a very important symbol or example in which the caste gets codified.
In this context what happens is that Manu Dharma Shastra also, it has rules and also regulations and also punishments for violation of the caste. Thus, what happens is that in Manu Dharma Shastra you have violence as an important part of the idea of enforcement of the caste, and subjugation of women. Also, lower caste becomes very important aspect of this organization of society.
In this context what happens is that the supremacy of Brahmin remains a fundamental aspect of this caste structure. Even now what you see is that, if you look at the Indian social structure, the way in which the temples are protected. A Brahmin only can be a priest of the temple. No one else.
In this context what happens that, Brahmin becomes very important symbol of caste structure in which, basically, upholder of knowledge and also, the person who actually philosophized this whole idea of this caste structure.
In this context what happens is that it starts as a religious belief and religious origin, but what happens is that it also secularizes. That's why, Arthashastra, for example, is a text. Though, supposed to be about the ruling aspects of the society, but what happens is that if you look at Arthashastra as a text, it has a very important aspect, is the upholding the caste dharma is central to the idea of ruling king.
That's why, what you see is that similarly, like Ramayana and Mahabharata which are supposed to Puranik text. Also, one of the important operational principle, and the duty of the ruler is, that protection of caste dharma becomes very central to the idea, the Brahmanical dharma.
In this context what happens is that the way in which caste society gets organized and implemented despite transformations in terms of ruling dynasties and periods, what you see is that it remains as a very important template for the organization of society. In this context what happens is that the denial of knowledge or mental emancipation becomes very, very important part of this organization of society.
If that is the way, so what we see is that in this context, Brahmanism, by the time 19th century, when it gets transformed into Hinduism and colonial influences, what you see is that the central features of caste system remains intact. That's why, what you see is that, you see that Brahmanism, when it gets transformed into Hinduism, the Brahmanical ideology and caste structure remains intact.
In this context what we are seeing is that the Hindu caste system becomes a very rigid even under colonialism. That's one of the reasons why you cannot imagine a Hindu without caste and also, you don't have conversion in Hinduism. Also, no escape from caste system for lower caste.
Even outside Hinduism what you see is that other religions which are part of South Asia, like Islam, Sikhism and Christianity, they also get used to the idea of caste, and they also start practicing caste. In this context what happens is that the central feature of caste system remains a very important aspect of this idea, organization of society.
In this context what you see is that when the colonialism comes, 15th century, 1492, '98, the beginning of European encounters, particularly the geographical discoveries and maritime connections. One of the important thing is that, particularly Portuguese and Spanish were very, very puzzled by the idea of caste system.
In fact, the very word caste comes from Portuguese word, castas. In this context, at one level what you see is that even in British, for that matter, in the beginning, when they encountered the caste system, one of the important thing is that they were confused. They also used these social divisions as a very important part of consolidation of its power.
That's one of the reasons why Mahars, for example, play a very important role. Mahars and other untouchables in Western India, in British armies, particularly in their early consolidation of power. In fact, that happens even in Eastern India. In places like Madras Presidency and also, Telugu-speaking areas, enormous number of untouchables or Dalits get into British armies, and they start working in the British army.
By 19th century, when colonial state gets its power, consolidation of power starts coming in, one of the important thing is that it starts practicing caste prejudices. Particularly by 1893, you see that untouchables are barred from recruitment into British armies. With this, what you see is that colonialism and also this whole idea of Orientalism, one of the important thing is that realification of Brahmanism becomes very important part of the colonial project.
In this context, in this project, one of the important thing is that the whole translation, Sanskrit translations, either by Max Muller or even for that matter, others. One of the important thing is that the Brahmanism, the way in which the elite Brahmanism and also, colonial state gets entrenched, and this whole idea of translations. Ultimately, what you see is, that results in this realification. Also, the idea, reproducing a new religion called Hinduism.
In this context I see that colonialism plays a very important role in reproducing Brahmanism as a very important emblem of Hinduism. With this what you see is that, this is the way in which the caste has been reproduced. One of the important thing is that, especially South Asian scholarship, particularly one of the important people other than colonial state, and its census operation, and anthropological and sociological surveys were scholars also. For example, sociologists and anthropologists have dealt.
Among them, one can think about Louis Dumont, has been very important person or scholar who has tried to explain the operational mechanism of caste, and which again, comes from this Weberian idea of status groups in which they try to draw a fundamental distinction between individualistic society in the West and communitarian societies in India, in which the idea of status and power is central. In which, again, they try to explain the caste system through the idea of purity and pollution. How the structure remains as a very important thing.
Even Indian sociologists like M. N. Srinivas for that matter, the coinage of idea of Sanskritization and also, dominant caste. Even dominant caste, in M. N. Srinivas narratives, one of the important thing is the Sanskrit, the sacredness of the Sanskrit. Also, the superiority of the Brahmin will always remains the top priority of the operational mechanism of caste in villages.
In this context even dominant caste who are not supposed be ... They were not Brahmins, but still what they do is that they emulate Brahmanism. Therefore, what you see is that there is this whole idea of imitation of Brahmin becomes a central aspect of operation of caste system.
In this context what you see is that this whole idea of sociological and anthropological understanding, one of the important thing is that they try to present this consensus model as, both lower caste and upper caste, everyone came into agreement that, "Forever, we will remain like this."
In this reading of caste, what you see is that, this whole idea of not being acknowledged, particularly the anti-caste alternative social imaginations. Particularly from ancient onwards, one of the important thing is that-
[foreign language 00:17:42].
One of the important things-
[foreign language 00:17:46].
Excuse me. Can you please mute your mic? Everybody who's in the audience, please mute your mics. Thank you.
One of the important things is that this whole idea, not acknowledging the idea of anti-caste alternative social imaginations. Historically, one of the important things you see that, the anti-caste consciousness is as old as caste system itself.
In ancient creed, Charvakas to Buddhism and Jainism, one of the important thing is that parallel existence of anti-caste consciousness is very important aspect. What you see is that they gets marginalized. Their voice, the anti-caste voices do not get same sort of acknowledgement by the ruling elites.
In this context what you see is that even sociological studies in post-independent India, one of the important thing is that they did not pay attention to the idea of this alternative imaginations or anti-caste consciousness.
In this context, when we come into post-colonial presentation of caste, again, we have very important figures like Bernard Cohen, Nicholas Dirks. What they try to do is that they try to present caste in the context of colonialism. What they do is that, the way we understand caste today is that they argue that, is the result of the way in which colonialism conceived and presented the caste.
In this context, Nicholas Dirks, particularly the Castes of Mind, or even for that matter, Cohen's very important articles on Uttar Pradesh. One of the important thing is that they try to produce this whole idea of colonial knowledge as a very important way in which the caste has been reproduced and remade.
In this context they look very appealing in terms of argument, and also convincing precisely because the way in which the state power ... As Sheila Jasanoff and others have presented, the state and knowledge are very intricately connected. In this context, at one level you see that colonialism plays a very important role, but one of the important things about the post-colonial understanding of caste, particularly presentation of caste is that it is, at one level, critiques the colonialism.
What happens is that it is anti-colonial, but not anti-caste. In this context what you see is that in post-colonial understanding, among the preeminent school in post-colonial studies. Again, we say, the Subaltern Studies. In this context what you see, that the Subaltern Studies as a project also, one of the important things you notice is that emancipation of Subaltern is not their agenda.
What you see is, that's one of the reasons why, as we all know, famously, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak says, "Subaltern, they never speak." I think that's one of the reasons why, because emancipation of Subaltern is not part of the Subaltern Studies' agenda.
In this context what we see is that the Subaltern Studies is a project. What you see is that it is complicit with Brahmanism and also, easily amenable to Hindu right agenda. In their critical, the Subaltern Studies and other post-colonialist critique of Western enlightenment and Western universality, one of the important thing is that, indirectly, they enabled the Hindu right in India.
That's one of the reasons why you see, very interestingly, how present-day Hindu right uses the post-colonial language as a very important way. In fact, when I intervened in this California textbook controversy, one of the important thing the American Hindu Foundation, HAF, Hindu American foundation. In their presentations, they often quoted post-colonial scholars in support of their arguments, again, as critique of caste. Also, again, as presentation of Dalits and also, Muslims.
In this context it's very interesting. What you see is that in the post-colonial projects, the biggest limitations are, problem lies in the way in which it absorbs the Brahmanism. Also, inherited privileges of the caste Hindus.
Another important thing to make is that it has no explanation for pre-colonial nature of caste. If you look at post-colonial histories, mostly what you see is that their understanding of caste and presentation, it doesn't take cognizance of existence of caste in pre-colonial India, and how it contributed to the later development in terms of transformation of caste.
How am I going with the time? Do I have enough time?
Yes. You're fine. You have about 10 minutes, if that's-
Yes. Okay. Okay. I'll try to wrap it up. Yes, thank you.
No, no, no. That's fine. Please go ahead.
Yeah. History of Caste from the Anti-Caste ... In this context, one of the important thing, particularly in the context of what is happening in India, with the rise of Hindu right. Also, what happened in the last one year in North America, particularly racial oppression and also, the scholarship related to the racism.
One of the important ways to look at history, particularly the South Asian history, social history, is to see it from the perspective of anti-casteism. In this context what you see, that the anti-casteism, particularly compared to ancient, I think, medieval India and early modern India is a very, very interesting way in which ... That's when, at one level you see that Indian subcontinent becomes globally prominent in terms of the market. Also, is a very important attraction to the rest of the world.
One of the important thing. I see that, especially reconstructing the anti-caste histories from the Bhakti tradition, is a very important tradition, particularly from the point of view of South and Western India. The Lingayats or Veerashaivas are very, very important sects which articulated a very powerful anti-caste consciousness and anti-caste movement.
It's also, very interestingly, these are all non-Brahmin castes. They are not Brahmins. One of the important thing is that, at the transformation of economic, and economic prosperity, one of the important thing is that non-Brahmin castes have become very important. Socially, very influential figures.
In this context, their aspirations for social status becomes very important part of this. With this, Lingayats, for example, become very important force. Not only that, even one of the important thing is that Brahmanism's power in coopting this anti-caste traditions is very, very important part of this cooption of the Brahmanism, and also the way in which they make into part of another caste forms.
With this, what happens is that the anti-caste consciousness, particularly coming from people like Panchalas, are the five artisanal communities who articulate this powerful anti-caste consciousness in South India.
If you look at, in my slide, Potuluru Veerabrahmam comes from goldsmith caste, and articulated a powerful anti-caste consciousness. What you see is that, from 13th and 14th century, all the way into 19th century, one of the important thing is that Panchalas become very important anti-Brahmin articulators.
Even in 19th century, during the time of East India Company, they went to court about their social status, in the context of census operations. With this, what you see is that you have this very interesting tradition come in.
Another important alternate list of caste comes in the form of Caste Puranas. I don't know whether some of you might be very familiar with satellite castes, who are also called dependent castes within ... They're very prominent among Sudra and untouchable communities, and who narrate this whole idea of caste histories.
One of the important thing is that they are social archive to the oppressed communities. They try to narrate the memory of oppression. In this context what happens is that, when they narrate the histories of caste, one of the important thing is that memory become a resistance. Thus, what happens is that in this, what you see, that inversion of Brahmanism becomes very central.
That's why, what happens is that untouchable Madiga becomes the originator of that very idea of humanity. In this context what you see, that this everyday narratives, caste narratives and caste get upside down.
In this context what we see that, if you see in terms of scholarly attempts to understand this. For example, Michel de Certeau's, Practice of Everyday Life. How the oppressed tries to weave alternative ways in which they can dodge the dominant ideas and dominant powers.
In this context, again, James Scott and Weapons of the Weak. These are the ways in which, what you see that, non-modern societies or non-modern forms of anti-caste consciousness get articulated.
In this context, then we come into the colonial context wherein, which anti-caste enlightenment tradition, particularly articulated by Ambedkar, Jyotiba Phule and also, Periyar Ramasamy. These three becomes very important figures, particularly in the context of anti-colonial nationalism and colonial context, who were people like Ambedkar, for example, sees a very important connection between gender oppression and the caste oppression, in which he implicates Brahmanical Hinduism as a reason.
That's one of the reasons why Ambedkar bans Manu Dharma Shastra. Also, he wrote riddles of Rama and Krishna, critiquing Mahabharata and also, Ramayana as very central text which tries to uphold the Hindu Brahmanical system in which caste becomes very central epithet for organization of society.
Another important aspect about Ambedkar is that Ambedkar refutes the connection between race and the caste. One of the limitations of Ambedkar's understanding of caste is that he doesn't investigate the role of colonialism in strengthening the caste and also strengthening the Brahmanism.
Jyotiba Phule, for that matter, one, he sees this interconnection between Brahmanism and colonialism. How colonialism, they are working in alliance with each other in reinforcing the caste system.
In this context what you see is that if you really want to see what should be the project of decolonizing caste, from anti-caste perspective. That we have to look at this whole idea of interconnection between race, caste and gender, and its invisible epistemological interconnections, particularly with white supremacy, with Brahmanical Hindu supremacy.
I think in South Asia, many of us are familiar how Aryan race theory has been used, both in the context of Western Europe and also even in the context of India. In fact, Hannah Arendt has a very interesting article called Race before Racism where she tries to argue that one of the ways in which caste becomes a very important way in which the elites in Europe, particularly the French elite, try to differentiate themselves from the ordinary peasants.
Caste becomes a very important way in which they try to look at themselves in terms of the community and also, to isolate themselves. In this context, the decolonizing caste perspective, it critiques colonial construction of caste and also, Brahmanical and post-colonial understanding of caste, basically.
By doing that, one of the important thing is that it tries to look at, if you want to look at the global history of caste, beyond India and beyond South Asian subcontinent, one of the important things we have to see is that, caste becomes a very important template for racism.
In fact, recent work by Isabel Wilkerson, we might have seen. What you see is that she tries to weave this interconnections, global interconnections. Though racism comes with the European colonialism, but one of the important argument I want to make in my book is that, I see that there is an interesting connection, interconnection between racism and casteism, because the way in which ... For example, lynchings.
Lynchings in Southern America have a very interesting relationship between lynchings in caste Panchayats, where the violation and also, people who trespass the caste boundaries, both in terms of sexual relationships and also intermarriages. One of the important thing is that caste Panchayat lynches people.
In fact, it's not something, ancient thing to happen. It used to happen even in 1990s and 1980s, and very late into the system. In this context what we see is that, I see that caste doesn't just exist as a unique social formation just in South Asia.
What it does is that it has this global inspirations and also interconnections in the way in which Europeans, when they're trying to reconstruct, particularly racism in settler colonial states. Particularly places like North America, one of the important thing is that there is a very interesting way in which they use caste language and also, caste practices as a very important way to reconstruct racialized societies.
With this, in conclusion, one of the important things I want to make is that, the only way to disrupt the dominant Brahmanical narrative is to bring the politics of the oppressed as a counter narrative of inquiry. In this context, in doing this, one of the ways in which we have to do is that we have to deconstruct the very idea of Hinduism. The way in which Hinduism is constructed as a mythical and non-violent religion, it is important to crack open the violent and oppressive sinews and bones that forms its foundational myth.
Dismantling structures of power that have been showed up as a classical tradition will require more than fact-checking. It will require, writing an entirely new story about antiquity and about who we are today. In this context what I'm trying to see is that, rewriting caste. History of caste is to see.
If we want to challenge the Hindu fundamentalism in the way in which it is organizing today, is to look at the history of caste as a very important way to see that, how these interconnections have happened and how caste becomes a very important way in which South Asian society gets organized.
In fact, the way in which Hindu right in India is trying to do away with reservation system, or the language of, for example, anti-Mandal. The way in which the caste privilege gets intact. That's one of the reasons why, the way we see South Asian scholarship, particularly in North American context, where there is very little introspection in terms of caste privilege by the established scholarship in South Asia.
I will stop it here and we will have more in question and answer session.
Thank you so much, Chinnaiah. We already have a number of questions, so I'm going to get right to them. The first question we have is from Sharik. Sharik, do you want to ask your question directly to Chinnaiah?
Yeah. Sure. I can do that. Sorry, my camera is turned off, if that's okay.
Well, thanks so much, Professor Jangam. This is really enlightening and this is quite the need of the hour, to build new intellectual histories of caste.
My question is that, what do you make of this new emerging anti-caste intellectual tradition which sees caste discrimination more so in relation to landlessness of Dalits? For example, you can think of the work by Suraj Yengde, Anand Teltumbde, or the movement by Jignesh Mevani.
In the early 2000s, Martin McMahon had raised this issue at the UN World Conference on Racism, saying that land reforms is the key issue of oppressed castes in India now, and not so much reservation, for the 21st century. We know that he had faced opposition from sociologists like Andre Beteille and so on.
Would love to know what are your views on this new anti-caste discourse on landlessness of Dalits and OBCs? Thank you.
Yeah. Thank you for this question. Yeah. One of the important thing in understanding Dalit movement and also, anti-caste movements in India is that it is only seen as this education and also, middle class kind of articulation.
In reality, I think that's what ... Recently, I just reviewed a book on R. B. More who was a communist and also, who was very close to Ambedkar. One of the important things More tries to point out is that Ambedkar was also very heavily invested in the idea of land question.
Land is very important source of power, not just for landed castes. Even for people who are involved in emancipatory struggles. I think, without addressing land question, our economic inequality, you cannot have social emancipation. The dignity comes when you are economically liberated.
I think that's one of the reasons why Naxalite movement in places like, where I come from, Telangana, one of the important things they did is that, both land and also anti-caste consciousness becomes very important part of the way in which they try to weave.
That's why the limits of this, particularly the middle class Dalit articulations, just saying that education. Also, going only in the middle class professions is a biggest limitation. I think that comes from the self-interest of this leadership.
Thanks. The next question we have is from Christian Novetzke. Christian, go ahead.
Christian Lee Novetzke:
Hi. Sorry, Tariq. I wasn't ready.
Oh, I'm sorry.
Christian Lee Novetzke:
You caught me off guard. No, no. I was just moving around a house full of people. Hi, Chinnaiah. It's nice to see you. I have, really one question, but in two pieces.
The Phules, as you pointed out, they'd critique the relationship between colonialism and Brahmanism, but they also considered colonialism and its purported liberalism to provide a means to challenge Brahmanism and caste patriarchy.
Colonialism had an ambivalent place in their understanding. I wanted to know how your analysis could include this ambivalence, particularly in anti-caste activism of the 19th century? Related to that, you showed a slide that separated ... You talked of Orientalism, or colonialism before Orientalism, but many of the theories of Orientalism were very powerfully used by non-Brahmin leaders and in Dravidian movements.
I'm thinking, particularly of the Aryan invasion theory, which essentially argued for our cellular colonialism as the epicenter of Brahmanical patriarchy.
I wanted you to talk a little more about why you separate those two, or how you account for the ways that the anti-caste activists used such Orientalist theories in their work. Thank you.
Thank you, Christian. I think this is central to the very idea of my book. That's what, the way in which we have to relook at the anti-caste movement and anti-caste epistemology is that, it should go beyond what it was written, particularly ... Thanks for pointing out this whole idea of relationship of Dalits with colonialism, the ambivalence.
Whatever the liberalism and education has come, not because colonialism wanted to emancipate Dalits. Dalit emancipation comes as an unintended consequence of colonialism. In fact, that's why, if you look at the works of people like Rupa Viswanath, or even for that matter, many others, one of the things you see, that colonialism is as Brahmanical as Brahmins themselves.
Colonialism is not driven by any emancipatory agendas. Colonialism is driven by profit. Colonialism is driven by power. That's another important thing, the way in which the Aryan race theory, I think. In fact, Ambedkar didn't accept that idea of racism in understanding caste.
I think, now important challenge for anti-caste movements is that we have to look at, beyond that way in which caste histories have been written. Now, what we have to see is that interconnection between racism and casteism. How it reconfigures in the context of colonialism. How Brahmanism and Brahmanical supremacy aligns itself with this racial superiority.
In fact, if you look at 19th and early 20th century writings, particularly in regional languages like Telugu, you see that how they deployed racial eugenics and racial purity theories to justify the caste.
In fact, colonial science becomes a very important engine through which caste supremacy gets justified. I think that's what the new challenge ... What I'm trying to do is that, this is what. Take beyond the normative understanding of caste in the context of colonialism. Also, normative understanding of Dalits, thinking that colonialism emancipated Dalits.
No, colonialism didn't emancipate Dalits. In fact, colonialism prepared, did every obstacle to prevent Dalit emancipation, like any other caste, you know?
I think this what we have to see in terms of gender, caste and also, race. This needs to be rethought and also, rewritten in future.
Christian Lee Novetzke:
Thank you. Thank you for the wonderful talk.
Thanks. The next question is from Ania, Ania Loomba. Ania, go ahead. Ania, are you there?
I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I had a technical glitch. Chinnaiah, lovely to see you back here, virtually at Penn. I remember one of your earliest talks at the Dalit Conference we had here.
I want to take you up on something that you just said in reply to Christian, because you cited Rupa Viswanath's work. I think the crucial point she's making is, how it is tied in with unfree labor and with a kind of slavery.
I want to push you to talk a little bit about what I see as very important point that you're making, which is that pre-colonial histories, if they are also to be taken seriously, then it isn't just race as a philosophy or caste as a philosophy, but also as a practice, actually, of economic practice, because both are also deeply rooted in economics.
I wanted to ask you, just to make it very specific. What do you think of some thesis like Sumit Guha's, who's trying to think about pre. Lots of material about pre-colonial histories of caste, but rooting it also in deeply economic structures. Simultaneous growth of caste and economic unfreedom, if you like, which is also the history with race.
The reason I'm asking this is that we are also getting histories of race which only talk about racial capitalism, but never root it in, actually economic structure. It becomes a epiphenomena, almost hanging above, which I'm taking seriously, that it is also an epiphenomena. That it's rooted in ideology.
I'd like you to speak to something that you already hinted at, in your answer to Christian. Go further with it by, maybe talking about Sumit Guha and other people who are trying to put it into a more economic framework.
Thank you, Ania. Nice to see you. Yeah, it's very long time, I didn't see you. So, thank you. This is the fundamental ... I think, somewhere I misplaced one of my slide. Now I'm realized, after the question.
One of the important things, especially about unfree labor. In pre-colonial history, early modern times, one of the important things, the way in which Indian subcontinent became a global market, is that unfree labor is a very important way in which the surplus has been generated.
Artisans are producing for free because of the cost-related obligation, and also agriculture labor, particularly in villages. Enormous, surplus labor, unpaid labor, basically. These are the laborers who are employed in fields without pay.
That's one of the reasons why, in early modern world, like you see that the way in which, if you look at, particularly East Coast of India, wherever the cotton textiles becomes very important global commodity. One of the important thing is that these are all the places in which, what you see is that the unpaid labor and unfree labor is producing this goods for the markets.
At other level, these are the places, just now I mentioned, artisanal classes are also the one who are articulating anti-caste movements, anti-caste consciousness, because one of the important thing is that they are connected with the global markets and global economy. Other level, they don't have same sort of free social movement.
Therefore, what happens is that the way in which India's resurgence as a global market in early modern world is predicated on the idea of unfree labor or bonded labor, based on the caste. I think that's one of the things, I think, Sumit Guha's work and others are very, very important, precisely because what it does is that it pushes this whole idea of caste histories. Again, tying it to the idea of economic bondedness and-
... connect it to the idea of social disempowerment. That's why I'm seeing, I think with the first question, when the talk about, why is land is critical to the Dalit emancipation, is that we have to reconnect this things. Economic emancipation, how it is tied to the idea of social emancipation?
I think that needs to be done. I think the bonded labor or unfree labor was very, very critical to the idea of global emergence of early modern India or early modern South Asia. Thank you, Ania, for this question.
Thanks so much. The next question we have is from Indivar. Indivar, do you want to ask your question?
Thanks, Tariq. Hi, Professor Jangam. Thank you so much for your talk. I actually wanted to turn back to something you were saying about colonialism. That there were unintended consequences of Dalit emancipation from colonialism, but the structure itself was very fraught and complicit in perpetuating the subordination of Dalits.
I wanted to ask you about the contemporary central university, let's say. That's something I'm interested in, about Hyderabad Central University specifically, as a site where there is so much powerful anti-caste politics coming out of it through Ambedkar at student parties and movements. After the unfortunate death of Rohith Vemula, we saw very powerful movement emerge.
It's also such a sight of Brahmanical supremacy and the perpetuation of that violence. Where do you see the future of anti-caste movements emerging out of spaces like Hyderabad Central University? I was just wondering if you could reflect on that.
Thank you. Yeah. Thank you, Indivar. I was a student of, University of Hyderabad. Yeah, what you're saying is very familiar to me. I think, that's what. When I was a student in 1993 to '95, I remember, in fact that's one of the things, I think, these spaces which are highly Brahmanical, but were also places which also forced us to reflect on our own existence.
I think our time, particularly 1993 to '95 and afterwards, one of the important things about University of Hyderabad is that it produced powerful Dalit literature in Telugu department. Particularly if you look at the way in which it transforms 1990s Dalit literature in Telugu, is that University of Hyderabad becomes very important epicenter of Dalit literature.
I think that also is the reason why, in fact Ambedkar Student Association was formed in those exact times in which this ... I think, this is what. The resistance to oppression or prejudice is one of the important ways in which these spaces gets rearticulated. I think that's what, as students, that's what we did.
In fact, not me, there are many others who were in forefront of this, contesting this caste prejudice in the campus. I think the future is that there is no alternative to struggle. You need to. When there is a oppression, you need to struggle and also, fight against it.
I think, that's what. This is also the time. As we see that there is a resurgence of Hindu right in India, but alternatively, there is a resurgence of youth also, the anti-Hindu right youth, particularly girls. Everywhere, women and Dalit youth are playing critical role in resisting Hindu fundamentalism.
I think that's what inspiring about these struggles, that at the end of the day, I think this needs to go hand in hand, that resisting and writing.
Thanks very much. The next question that we have is from Kimberly. Kimberly, go ahead.
Thank you. Thank you, Professor Jangam. That was really fascinating. I was wondering if you could speak to the history of caste decolonization from a rural versus urban point of view. I'd read Nathaniel Roberts', To Be Cared For, and he talks about a particular Dalit slum in Tamil Nadu.
In that, he tries to investigate caste, but people say that caste is almost ... When they leave the rural areas, they leave caste behind. The rural is both, space and past. I was wondering if you find ... I'm not a scholar of caste, but if you find such studies elsewhere, and can speak to that decolonized history of caste in urban and rural areas as well. Thank you.
This is, again, a very difficult domain to say that urban space really frees Dalit from the caste stigma and caste prejudice, because that's one of the things. Works of Anupama Rao and also, recently what I read, R. B. More's work in Bombay, labor organizing, particularly in Bombay mills. Also, in the time of Ambedkar, when he was trying to organize independent labor movement, one of the important thing is that the caste does come from rural to the urban space.
How the chawls of Bombay get organized on the basis of caste. The Mahars and other places. It's like the journey. What we see is that the complexity of cost is, that's why even diaspora. You come to America and you still carry on with your caste prejudices, and caste comes with us. Particularly if you come from oppressed background like me, that caste never leaves.
To say that, "I don't believe in caste." To say that, "I don't have caste," is a privilege. If someone says, particularly the mainstream Marxist in India says that, "I don't have caste." Actually, that's a privilege for them, because you know that either they're upper caste or Brahmins who are capable of saying that.
In this context, whether urban or rural, one of the important thing, caste changes forms. In rural setting it's very rude. In urban setting it is very refined. That's what I see.
The next question we have, Chinnaiah, is from Ritu Kochar. Ritu, go ahead.
Hi. Hi, professor. It was a lovely talk. I think this is something that's happened over the years, that anti-caste scholars tend to have an affair with communism, and they come back, especially among Dalit Panthers and the anti-caste scholars after that.
Recently, authors like Meena Kandasamy who thinks of herself as a communist, and is actively into anti-caste movements. What do you think of this relationship between communism and casteism, and how it can go further?
My second question is related to what you said about land reforms. Sir, in the 1960s, with the land reforms, I think what happened was, a lot of OBCs who remain in the village, ended up emulating Brahmanical traditions. They became the upper castes of the village. This was the result of these land reforms which weren't very adequately implemented.
Don't you think that a similar thing could happen with more redistribution of resources? Our focus should be, rather than redistribution, on recognition? Yes. That will be it. Thank you.
I am little bit confused with your question.
Sorry. Yeah. I think there were just two very different questions merged together.
Yeah. Yeah. Is your first question, are you trying to ask that relationship between anti-caste movements and communism?
Yes. Yes. What do you think is their future together, as many anti-caste scholars tend to divulge into communism and try to see caste as a economic structure only, rather than social structures.
Do you think anti-caste scholars and communism can go together, towards a successful revolution for anti-caste?
No. Yeah, but that's a very interesting question. Thank you for clarification. I think this is where, I think the politics of alliance is very, very important. In fact, not just communism, but also, for example, feminist organizing.
In fact, I didn't talk about it. One of the important critique, the powerful critique of caste comes from feminist scholars like Uma Chakravarti. Gendering Caste, for example, is a very powerful text in terms of telling us that intersectionality of caste and also, the gender oppression.
I think this communist movement, for example, that's what, to some extent, in places like Telangana, Maoism succeeded precisely because of that. The way in which they are able to articulate the anti-caste consciousness or anti-caste movements through the narrative of communist and Maoist ideology of economic emancipation.
In fact, if you look at 1990s. In fact, I just wrote something on P. V. Narasimha Rao. P. V. Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister. He could not enter into his village, Vangara village in Karimnagar district precisely because the whole land belonging to his family or him was occupied by the Maoists.
If you look at 1990s, Telangana, one of the important thing is that, how this communist movements used the anti-caste organizing as a very important way to bridge this alliance. I think, that's what. If you really want to see a future for India or future for emancipatory politics, I think the alliance between feminism, communism and anti-casteism is a very important way to go forward. Otherwise, we cannot really tackle the Hindu fundamentalism, which is the way in which it is having resources and also, power.
I think this is the challenge we have, both as a scholars and the activists. How do we form this alliances and also, move forward with the progressive politics?
Thanks. Thanks for that, Chinnaiah. One follow-up that we've got. I'm asking for the person here, because their microphone is not working.
I'm rephrasing it a little bit, which is that you talked about the kind of cooptation of resurgent non-Brahmin castes and their mobilization. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about that, because in some ways, to say that ... To explicate what you meant by the cooptation of that, because we've seen lots of powerful forms of non-Brahmin politics, as you mentioned.
You mentioned the Lingayats, but obviously we've seen it across northern and southern India. Some in regionalist forms, some under agrarian mobilizations, as we've seen in North India as well. Why do you see cooptation as the useful kind of frame with which to understand what happened to those mobilizations? What is gained by understanding that? Then, do you have any concerns with thinking of it through the lens of cooptation?
These were big, powerful political mobilizations. Do you think that something is lost by seeing it purely through the frame of coopted movements?
Yeah. Thank you for the follow-up question. One of the important anxiety I have is that, because when I'm writing my book, and also afterwards, when you think about the way in which Indian nation state has been conceived, it is imbibed with the idea of Hindu Brahmanical consciousness.
Anyone aspiring for state power, one of the important thing is that it directly or indirectly gets coopted into this Hindu Brahmanical imagination. That's why you see that secular Nehru also. You see the way in which the prime ministers of India, or even for that matter, people like Abdul Kalam who was a Muslim himself, used to go and fall on the feet of Sathya Sai Baba.
It's like, the way in which this whole idea of this Hindu Brahmanical imagination and state power. The way they are intricately connected in India, makes one to ... Again, for example, I'll tell you, N. T. Rama Rao. If you're a Telugu, you might be familiar.
He comes from a very powerful anti-Brahmin, communist-oriented Kamma caste background, but the moment he becomes chief minister, this guy becomes himself, a God. That's why you see that, even for that matter, Dravidian movements. So much worship culture, right? It's anti-Dravidian to worship a human being.
Even for that matter, you see that non-Brahmin dominant and also, OBC castes. The way, when they get articulating anti-caste movement and non-Brahmin movement, they are very radical. When they're in power, one of the important thing is that the power of Brahmanism gets them absorbed. Then what happens is that the whole politics get rearticulated.
That's one of the reasons why BJP is exploiting this internal divisions within this caste groups. Either putting most backward OBCs as the advanced backwards, and most backwards Dalits as the advanced Dalits. It is exploiting. In fact, that's, very carefully playing the caste politics to consolidate its power.
Thank you so much for that, Chinnaiah. We have time for one more question. I apologize. I know there are many, many questions that have come in. We're just not going to be able to get to all of them. We're already at time. The last question is from Urmila. Urmila, go ahead.
Yeah. Thank you. Thank you so much, Tariq, for allowing me to ask my question. I just hope my question makes sense, because it's a long question. It's real, genuine difficulty. Professor Chinnaiah Jangam, I think you pointed out to the necessity of retrieving the anti-caste thought from the pre-modern, pre-colonial times, which is the Bhakti movement, and I completely agree with you.
I am placing my difficulty in front of you, is that how do I access the Bhakti tradition? I place my own difficulty here. For me, accessing the Bhakti tradition is through music. The music that I hear it through is classical music, or what is called classical music. I don't know how to describe the classical music. It is extremely impactful as far as my upper caste Brahmanical ears have prepared me to listen to classical music.
How do we address this question of the appropriation and still be completely impactful rendition of the anti-caste thought through music, that was definitely an upper caste music? That's my question. I don't know if you want to address this at all.
Yeah. Thank you, Urmila, for this. Yeah. I think that's one of the things, this whole idea of construction of classicalism in India. Again, a Brahmanical conspiracy. In fact, I think couple of years back, we had a very interesting seminar at Upenn. Lisa organized, where there was a interesting presentations on classical dance in South India, where the early dance forms of the lower caste people, how they have been appropriated by the Brahmins.
In this context, one of the ways in which, retrieving this anti-caste histories, particularly in the context of rewriting the pre-colonialist histories began. There are lot of oral tradition, which again, it is going away.
One of the important thing is that there are lots of interesting oral traditions which exist, parallel to the mainstream writings and mainstream narrations, particularly by the satellite communities and the communities who preserve the caste histories.
I think that's one of the important ways in which we can retrieve this pre-colonial, anti-caste memory as a very important way forward to reconstruct the histories of anti-caste and decolonial perspective, which actually contest, both modern forms of colonial and post-colonial and also, Brahmanical forms of oppressions.
Thank you so much, Chinnaiah for not just your talk, but for taking on so many questions. I'm sorry that we don't have time for more, but we're already a few minutes over.
I just want to thank you again, for joining us. I'm sorry we weren't able to host you, again, in person, but definitely look forward to having you back at Penn and at CASI in the future, and as you continue to work on this book project.
For now, please stay safe in Ottawa. Everyone can join me in just thanking our speaker. Let me remind you that our next seminar will be on the 22nd with Professor Sanjeev Routray from The University of British Columbia. Thanks so much, again, Professor Jangam. Thanks, everyone.
Thank you all. Happy Dalit History Month and Jai Bhim to you all. Thank you, again, Tariq for hosting me. Naveen, thank you for arranging this. Thank you all for listening to me. All the questions were very fascinating and I will include them in my writings. Thank you all for your time and consideration.
Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you very much.