NMML cordially invites you to a Workshop
at 9:30 a.m. on Friday 9th and Saturday 10th December 2011
in the Seminar Room, First Floor, Library Building, Teenmurti House, New Delhi110011
on'A Social History of Caste and Intimacy'in collaboration withDr. Charu Gupta,Department of History, University of Delhi&Dr. Anupama Rao,Barnard College, Columbia UniversityFriday, 9 December 20119.00 a.m. Workshop Opening and Welcome byProf. Mahesh Rangarajan, Director, NMML9.15 a.m. Opening Remarks byDr. Charu Gupta and Dr. Anupama Rao9.30-11.30 a.m. Session I'Gender, Sexuality, Intimate Relations'Chair and Discussant: Prof. Mary John, Centre for Women's Development Studies1) Dr. Charu Gupta, Department of History, University of Delhi"Embodied Desires: Hindu Publicists, Dalits and Intimate Relationships in Colonial India"2) Dr. G. Arunima, Women's Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University"Mirth, Masculinity, Misogyny?: Representations of Sexuality in 20th Century Malayalam Writing"11.30-12.00 noon TEA12.00-2.00 p.m. Session II'Political Thought of Subalternity'Chair and Discussant: Prof. Uday Kumar, University of Delhi1) Dr. Anupama Rao, Department of History, Barnard College"Stigma and Everyday Life"2) Dr. Aniket Jaaware, Department of English, University of Pune"Thinking Caste through Touch"2.00-3.00 p.m. LUNCH3.00-5.00 p.m. Session III'The Grammar of Caste and Labour'Chair and Discussant: Dr. Uma Chakravarti1) Prof. Ashwini Deshpande, Delhi School of Economics"Merit, Mobility and Modernism: Caste Discrimination in Contemporary Indian Labour Markets"2) Dr. Vidhya Ravindranathan, Department of History, University of Delhi"Constructing the Scavenger: Caste and Labour in Colonial Madras"5.00 p.m. TEASaturday, 10 December 20119.00-11.00 a.m. Session IV'Caste and Representation'Chair and Discussant: Prof. Nivedita Menon, Jawaharlal Nehru University1) Dr. Raj Kumar, Department of English, University of Delhi"The Dialectics of Violence: Reading Caste Atrocities in Dalit Novels"2) Dr. Y. S. Alone, Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University"An Alternative or a Difference: Pictorial Space, Perception and Signifiers"11.00-11.30 am TEA11.30-1.30 pm Session V'Body, Politics and Personhood'Chair and Discussant: Prof. Gopal Guru, Jawaharlal Nehru University1) Prof. Aditya Nigam, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies"Presenting the Self: Politics, Publics and Sartorial Styles"2) Dr. Tapan Basu, Department of English, University of Delhi"The Body-Politics of Religious Belonging: Dalit Interrogation of the Physiology of Caste"1.30-2.30 pm LUNCH2.30-4.30 pm Session VI'The Caste Question Book Discussion'1) Prof. Gopal Guru, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University2) Dr. Prathama Banerjee, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies3) Prof. Upendra Baxi, Professor Emeritus, University of Delhi, and Visiting Professor, WarwickConclusion4.30 p.m. TEAWorkshop Abstracts'Embodied Desires: Hindu Publicists, Dalits and Intimate Relationshipsin Colonial India'Dr. Charu GuptaThe question of Dalit female desire has been intrinsic to everyday forms of caste and religious violence. It has produced deeply politicized discourses and contentions, particularly in relation to inter-caste and inter-religious intimacies, romances, elopements and marriages. These are also intricately tied to elevation or decline in social status, mobility, religious conversions and crossing of boundaries, as they challenge disciplinary regimes, norms and customs and are an uncomfortable anomaly. This paper explores the anxieties and insecurities of Hindu publicists in colonial India to such intimacies. The paper simultaneously marks the intertwining of gender, caste and religious identities with sexuality, romance, abductions and everyday violence. To delineate this, I focus on how inter-caste and inter-religious intimacies, especially involving Dalits and lower castes were viewed in the police reports, court cases and the writings of caste ideologues and Hindu publicists in colonial north India, with a focus on Uttar Pradesh (UP). These were enmeshed in a particular politics of colonial law and order on the one hand and of incitement on the other, where there was both an erasure and a representational heightening of lower caste female desire. Through this context of silencing and overwriting of outcaste female subjectivity, this paper also implicitly attempts to recover in part lower caste female agency, choice and aspiration. The localized, quotidian practices of these women and their ex-pressions of new intimacies and desires weaved a narrative thread that exposed the inherent vulnerabilities in the Hindu logic.'Mirth, Masculinity, Misogyny : Representations of Sexuality in 20th century Malayalam Writing'Dr. G. ArunimaAs with other literatures, a substantial part of twentieth century Malayalam writing centres on themes of love, marriage and the labouring world. However, it is within the genre of satire that these themes are reworked in complex and parodic ways, often bordering on what appears to be misogyny, and caste prejudice.This paper, by looking at the work of two key twentieth century Malayali satirists (Sanjayan, and E.V. Krishna Pillai) hopes to open up a discussion on the anxiety associated with intimacy in two distinct domains - sexual/marital on the one hand, and inter-caste relationships on the other. In the world of satirical prose (and plays) the chief sites provoking humour are the home, and the domestic, as indeed a reasonably ill-defined 'public' space. By rendering the satire situational, these writers (male, and upper caste Nayar) seem to be revealing the fragility of not merely modern (hetero) sexuality and sociability, but of modernity itself. Humour lies often in savage vilification, and frequently the situations that are satirized are those that transgress extant social proprieties. In fact, the unease about the figure of 'woman' and 'lower caste' in this body of writing, invoked repeatedly as stock-stereotype (modern, power hungry, shrewish; foolish, greedy, transgressive, respectively) can lend itself to an easy tendentious reading – that of being misogynist, and casteist. The more challenging problem is of exploring the implications of this violent humour in the creation of a modern Malayali (literary) public sphere, as indeed of the production of wider notions of subjectivity and agency. Equally it shall be my attempt to theorise a relationship between satire and violence, where the blurring boundary between brutality and humour becomes the site for exploring the creation of discourses of power and reification of identity.'Stigma and Everyday Life'Dr. Anupama RaoThis paper is an effort to return to the caste-cl-ass debate through a different optic, by asking what it would mean to think of something like a Dalit theory of materiality. My paper will focus on engaging the experiential and analytical specificities of outcaste labor and its emendation of labor universalism, by addressing the immanence of stigma. So as not to be too abstract about this, my paper takes up this question across a series of levels: from the mutual entailments of Marx and Ambedkar in producing new forms of critical thought in the inter-war period; to the relationship between "thought" and "place" in the writings of a series of Dalit Communists; to the place of concrete thought in the cultural production of the Dalit Panthers, to end, finally, with some thoughts on the contemporary slum as lifeworld.'Thinking Caste through Touch'Dr. Aniket JaawareIn my presentation I will argue that it is worth considering 'caste' as belonging to the order of touchability/untouchability, and therefore it is necessary to analyze these. I will also attempt to argue that more than endogamy/exogamy and purity/pollution, it is touchability/ untouchability that might be taken to be the marker of operations of caste distinctions. I will also address the issue of trace evidence (fingerprints), in order to clarify some social operations and processes of institutionalization. This will be done by a quasi-phenomenological method, though the argument will be presented polemically.'Merit, Mobility and Modernism: Caste Discrimination in contemporary Indian Labour Markets'Prof. Ashwini DeshpandeA popular belief about the caste system is that the present day inequalities are a result of pastdiscrimination, primarily confined to rural areas. In urban areas, jobs are mostly in the formal sector that is viewed as essentially meritocratic, especially the private sector. Also, given the difficulties of identifying caste in the relatively anonymous urban settings, the view is that the bulk of caste discrimination occurs mainly in rural, traditional parts of the country. This paper outlines the most recent evidence on caste discrimination in contemporary urban labour markets. There are macro studies (using NSS data) that attempt to decompose the wage differential between SC and non-SC workers into its skill differential and discrimination components. Providing further proof of contemporary discrimination are correspondence studies that gauge discriminatory attitudes in the private sector. The paper then reports studies that try to uncover the puzzle of how employers determine caste in settings where job applicants have no reason to disclose their caste affiliations. It also looks at the labour market from the demand side by examining what motivates the employers and their conception of "merit". It, thus, explores and outlines the pathways through which caste inequalities are being perpetuated in the present, in the elite, formal sector jobs. All available evidence suggests that social and cultural capital (the complex and overlapping categories of caste, family background, network and contacts) play a huge role in urban, formal sector labour markets, where hiring practices are less transparent than appear at first sight. While Dalits are severely disadvantaged in this setting, an effective affirmative action program has the potential to turn things around. Whether this will be possible in the context of highly charged political opinion is hard to know.'Constructing the Scavenger: Caste and Labour in Colonial Madras'Vidhya RavindranathanAn account of scavengers reveals an interesting narrative of the relations between colonial state and untouchables in Madras. The paper tries to understand these relations from three vantage points. Firstly, as a category of archival documentation it tries to understand the ways in which colonial sociology represented the scavenger. Unlike North India, where certain communities like Chuhras were inscribed with scavenging as a past narrative, there was no clear identification of a 'traditional scavenging caste'. The census enumerators did not construct a 'scavenging caste' or assign untouchable communities with scavenging as a hereditary occupation. Instead, they reworked the category of 'traditional occupations' to cl-assify untouchable's populations like Pariahs and Chakkiliyans within the categories of 'agriculture labour' and 'leather work' due to which there were no real distinctions between an agriculturist and non agriculturist. The paper engages with the silences and gaps regarding the enumeration of scavengers to ask larger questions about the working of census operations in colonial Madras.This leads to our second question. How did the infrastructure of sanitation and modern public system create the figure of scavenger? To what extent did the economics of social welfare and limited state intervention in drainage and conservancy arrangements construct a labour regime, which was dependent on the manual labour of untouchable castes? Manual scavenging, which relied on untouchable labour, constituted the pivot of the modern systems of waste disposal developed by the colonial state. The colonial state tried to establish strong labour machinery, which was determined, by conditions of economy, efficiency and the needs of the state. Every effort to extract efficiency and regulate the labour process inserted the colonial state into the lives of scavengers, which bound them to the labour process. Apart from limited technological investments, the colonial state created an elaborate labour regime marked by discipline and surveillance, which concretized scavenging as a caste, based occupation.Thirdly, the paper tries to engage with the caste question not only through state regulation of labour process, but also through acts of resistance from the scavengers. The transformation of scavengers from 'domestic servants' to 'municipal workers' reveal a curious tale of strong confrontation between the scavengers and the official state machinery that imposed a battery of legal regulations, which was followed by strikes by the municipal workers. The strikes from 1870s tell us a powerful history of the untouchable scavengers who countered every attempt of the state to impose coercion and surveillance over the workers. The paper tries to capture these moments of resistance as a means to raise new questions about the struggles of untouchables.The paper needs to be located within a larger debate on caste and labour, in which the former was regarded as an antiquated category or that, which was culturally specific to the Indian labour. The paper attempts to address this question by highlighting changes within the institution of caste, how it was constituted and reconfigured within the workplace and more importantly, how it was not a feudal relic but was deeply enmeshed within the labour process itself.'The Dialectics of Violence: Reading Caste Atrocities in Dalit Novels'Dr. Raj KumarDalits in India are victims of caste oppression. As a people they have been excluded from all spheres of national life for millennia. The upper caste Hindus at various points in the past have systematically attempted to annihilate them from the pages of Indian history, culture and literature. But their attempts have not been successful yet. It is true that the Dalits have suffered all through the years from the caste exploitation silently, but they have not surrendered their courageous selves to their upper caste oppressors. Their everyday engagement with the caste-battles is reflected through many of their creative arts be it in the forms of songs, dances, music, paintings, stories or oral histories. Since literacy was not easily available to them due to stringent Hindu laws, they vent their anger through the oral narratives. It is only after India's independence that a small percentage of Dalits have been able to avail education and have occupied different positions both in public and private sectors. These highly conscious Dalits are now trying to use literacy as weapons to mobilise resistance against various forms of oppression including the caste. Their protests have come out in well articulated literary forms which is collectively now called 'Dalit literature'. From the various genres they have experimented over the years, novel seems to have arrived quite late. There are not too many Dalit novels even to these days and those few novels which are available are mostly written in various Indian languages. Few of them are now available in English translation. The focus of my paper is to study the dialectics of violence in Dalit novels. For this purpose I will closely look into Joseph Macwan's Angaliyat (Gujarati, 1988, The Stepchild in English, 2004), P. Sivakami's Pazhaiyana Kazhithalum (Tamil, 1989, The Grip of Change in English, 2006) and Akhila Nayak's Bheda (Oriya, 2010, The Target has not been translated yet).'An Alternative or a Difference: Pictorial Space, Perception and Signifiers'Dr. Y. S. AloneBarring a few exceptions, Indian modernism addressed issues of formalism without daring to address the content/subject matter of paintings. This continues in today's gallery art practices, where engagements with the materiality of material has become a discourse with international currency that has created the category of 'global' art though ideas about, and entry into 'the global' is governed by dominant groups such as Europe and America. The Euro-American centric ideas of using ready-mades have become norms of the day. In India, anyone challenging conventional thinking process as well as pictorial norms are often given a silent miss and death in the gallery art practices. Rather than challenging ideas of national art (and its greatness), these are accepted as a category of reference for the conventional understanding of ideas of hegemony and cultural behavior and practices. Perception is an issue that is located in the caste-hierarchy but it does not get dissected in either academic or intellectual domain from the perspectives offered by Ambedkar and his followers. However, there are a few artists who have explored visuality in a manner that is extremely hard-hitting, and which makes you engage in self-introspection and the implications of social behavior governed by a psyche loaded with the cultural and religious practices. The Brahmanical cultural nationalism in India has produced the elements of mythic traditions as historical imaginations, while this paper engages that group of artist who have engaged in critiques of Brahmanical cultural nationalism. These nationalistic meta-narratives have systematically ignored the theoretical interventions of Ambedkarite ideological/thinking process though such interventions have consciously aimed at creating alternatives; alternatives for which ideas of subaltern art production and of subalternity itself become problematic.'Presenting the Self: Politics, Publics and Sartorial Styles'Prof. Aditya NigamThis presentation will look at the politics of the public presentation of the self and deployment of the body through a study of the sartorial style of political actors. The main focus here will be Mayawati and the controversy around her 'ostentatious' style but also Dalit politicians more generally. In doing a somewhat preliminary comparison with the sartorial styles of other politicians it will also try to look at a sort of compact that is sought to be achieved with a potential public through this non-verbal form of address. Indeed, it seems that there is a sense in which the leader too is 'hailed' by her potential public and in responding, she actually brings it forth. This seems to be true of at least some kinds of political deployments of the body and I will take up a few instances to mark the contrasts.'The Body–Politics of Religious Belonging: Dalit Interrogation of the Physiology of Caste'Dr. Tapan BasuMy presentation will focus upon the tropes of alternative religious belonging which emerged out of Ambedkar's theorisation of a Dalit cultural identity distinct from such ascribed identities as outcastes or members of the Depressed cl-asses or Harijans, all predicated upon the assumed affiliation of the Dalits to the Hindu fold.The impetus for Ambedkar's theorisation of Dalit difference proceeded out of his perception of the limits of the reformist discourse on caste, articulated most strikingly in the statements of Gandhi who, notwithstanding his persistent denunciation of the practice of untouchability, was unable to abandon his faith in the Veda-authorised varna vyavastha, the four-tier structure of the Hindu social order represented through the image of four organically interconnected parts of the human body. In an article entitled "Annihilation of Caste", a hard-hitting indictment of defenders of caste, written in the wake of his enforced surrender on the demand for separate electorates for the untouchables, Ambedkar exhorted dissident Hindus to cast off their old body in favour of a new one. "The old body must die before a new body can come into existence and a new life can enter into it." The "new life" that Ambedkar proposed was life in Buddhism and the "new body" the body restored to wholeness, healed from the markers of caste.The purpose of my presentation will be to track the contours of the liberated Dalit body, as represented though its changing profiles, in some key post-Ambedkar texts of Dalit self- ex-pression.__________________________________________________________________________________All are welcome but advance intimation will be much appreciated as it will help us with arrangements including lunch.Those wishing to have their names added to the e-mail list may please e-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org" target=>email@example.comAddress: Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, Teen Murti House, New Delhi – 110011.Please note that nearest Metro Stations (Race Course and Central Secretariat) and the key DTC bus numbers 620, 604, 680, and 720.Please do also note there is a Lift for the First Floor for those who may need to use it for access.
Dr. Charu Gupta
Department of History
University of Delhi