Penn Calendar Penn A-Z School of Arts and Sciences University of Pennsylvania

Modernity Without Alterity: Caste Associations and Hindu Cosmopolitanism in Mumbai

in partnership with the South Asia Center

Suryakant Waghmore
Professor of Sociology, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Bombay
Thursday, September 23, 2021 - 12:00
A Virtual CASI Seminar via Zoom — 12 noon EDT | 9:30pm IST

About the Seminar:
This seminar explores the nature of urbanism that caste associations of pure and privileged seek to construct in the metropolis of Mumbai. To this end it asks: what role do caste associations play in the cosmopolitanism(s) of Mumbai? How do they help individuals negotiate urbanism? What is the nature of the civility and publicness they aspire to and work toward? What are the challenges they face? Prof. Waghmore suggests that caste associations of the pure castes work toward achieving an ideal of Hindu cosmopolitanism, whereas the caste associations of marginal groups are more inclined toward justice, dignity, and urban adventure. Associations of pure castes may seem to be bad cases of cosmopolitanism as they achieve a certain kind of limited openness and tolerance while continuing caste closure. However, they do attempt to provide cultural roots to consumerist individuals in the urban environment. The challenges facing caste associations of "pure" castes point both to the limits of urban Hindu cosmopolitanism as an ideal and social practice and to the lack of alterity as a necessary moral value for Hindu cosmopolitanism. Justice-oriented cosmopolitanism dominates, on the other hand, in the associations of ex-untouchable castes, which is partly dialogical and open to alterity.

About the Speaker:
Suryakant Waghmore is a Public Sociologist, Academic, Writer, and a Professor of Sociology at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT. Bombay. He earned his Ph.D. in Sociology as a Commonwealth Scholar from University of Edinburgh in 2011. He is the author of Civility Against Caste (2013) and Co-editor of Civility in Crisis (2020). He was recently awarded the New India Foundation Fellowship (2021) to work on his book tentatively titled, Is a Post Caste City Possible? He was previously Professor and Chairperson at the Centre for Social Justice and Governance, TISS (Mumbai) and has held visiting faculty positions at Fudan University, University of Hyderabad, Stanford University. and Göttingen University.