Despite having been constitutionally outlawed, caste and untouchability practices in the Indian subcontinent still shape the socio-political, cultural, and religious life of Indians. More than 350 million people suffer from this age-old system of entrenched segregation. Anti-caste movements among Dalits (former “Untouchables”) have been flourishing, yet caste continues to affect marriage choices, educational attainment, and occupation. Caste discrimination and caste-based violence is a fact of life in contemporary India. In response, a variety of Dalit Movements have emerged recently, in the forms of Dalit literature, Dalit Cinema, Dalit Feminism, and Dalit Lives Matters. Such developments demonstrate the potential for social change driven by youth activists in the world’s largest democracy.
The proposed talk by Professor Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd will critically analyze issues of caste identity, caste violence and politics, and will discuss the possibility of caste annihilation in 21st century India.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is an Indian political theorist, writer, and activist for Dalit rights. He is a prolific writer in English and Telugu. Prof. Shepherd’s books include Why I am Not a Hindu, Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution, God As Political Philosopher: Budha's Challenge to Brahminism, A Hollow Shell, Turning the Pot, Tilling the Land: Dignity of Labour in our Times, Untouchable God: A Novel on Caste and Race, The State and Repressive Culture, Manatatwam(in Telugu), and Buffalo Nationalism: A Critique of Spiritual Fascism. He taught at the Department of Political Science at Osmania University and served as director of the Centre for Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) in Hyderabad. He is a recipient of the Mahatma Jyotirao Phule Award and was a Nehru Fellow between 1994-1997.
Gaurav J. Pathania, Adjunct Professor, Department of Sociology, The George Washington University