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MN Srinivas Memorial Lecture 2016: Outside caste?

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King's College London

Strand

London, United Kingdom

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King’s India Institute and the Royal Anthropological Institute invite you to the MN Srinivas Memorial Lecture 2016:

Outside caste? The enclosure of caste and claims to castelessness in India and the UK

Speaker: Professor David Mosse (School of Oriental and African Studies)

Old Anatomy Lecture Theatre (K6.29) Strand Campus

The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception.

Dr B.R. Ambedkar, whose 125th birth anniversary is celebrated this year (2016), provided a basis for social policy and law in India in relation to caste inequality and discrimination. However, the course he charted towards justice and common humanity in the age of equality and rationalism was frequently challenged by crosswinds of religion and nationalism.

Taking the separate cases of caste and caste-based discrimination among non-Hindus, and outside India — the exclusion of Christian and Muslim Dalits from provisions and protections as Scheduled Castes in India, and response to the outlawing of case discrimination in the UK — this lecture looks at various ways in which caste comes to be enclosed within religion (specifically Hinduism) and the nation, so as to restrict the field of social policy, exempt caste from law, and limit the social politics of caste. Both cases tell us something about caste as an aspect of ‘the postcolonial character of India’s contemporary predicament’ as Nicholas Dirks put it (2001: 294), and its diasporic manifestation, in the sense of an echoing tension between the liberal critique of traditional oppression and the nationalist critique of colonial intrusion. But the muting of caste — perhaps in the name of religion and nation — is also an aspect of the contemporary social life of caste as a form of structural advantage behind claims of casteless merit and middleclassness.  Research among Dalits (in south India) shows a parallel investment of aspirations in a world of civility and equal respect but in face of experiences of the inescapable mark of caste. From this comes not so much renewed activist Dalit assertions, but a desire for castelessness — not the castelessness of concealed caste advantage, but Ambedkar’s vision of the recovery of common humanity and society free from social barriers. 

David Mosse is Professor of Social Anthropology at SOAS University of London. He has published extensively on the anthropology of religion, environment and development. He is author of several books on religion, caste and development including  The Saint in the Banyan Tree: Christianity and Caste Society in India (2012), Cultivating Development: An Ethnography of Aid Policy and Practice (2005), The Rule of Water: Statecraft, Ecology and Collective Action in South India (2003),  He is currently involved in a collaborative research project, ‘Caste Out of Development,’ concerned with the civil society activism and transnational advocacy on Dalit rights and Development. He has recently worked on a project for the UK Equalities and Human Rights Commission on ‘Caste in Britain’ concerning developing legislation against caste-based discrimination.

For inquires, please contact: Kriti Kapila (kriti.kapila@kcl.ac.uk).

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