Caste and Technology Part II – Information and Communication Technologies
1. More recently, India’s Information Technology (IT) revolution has thrown up mixed challenges to religious conservatism. Omvedt registered concerns about the likely exclusion of Dalits in the high-tech world.
Omvedt, G (u.d.). Untouchables in the world of IT. London. Panos Features.
2. However, the explosion of IT and related skills were coded with caste colour. For example, the Prospect magazine from the UK attributed the Indian genius of IT success to the "pedagogic and intellect traditions" rooted in Sanskrit Vedas.
Barron, C. (2004). The Indian genius: What makes Indian software developers the best in the world. Prospect Magazine.
3. The association between dominant caste intellect and the power of technology is not mere populism, and it can be appealing to scholars of repute. In a speech, Development economist and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen in 2007 to the trade association of Indian Information Technology (IT) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry where Sen explained India’s IT success through its "historical respect for distinctive skills' and seeing it as a 'social contribution.’”
Sen, A. (2007, February 17). Looking beyond the traditional domain. The HINDU.
Shanmugavelan, M. (2007). Why I’m worried by Am by Amartya Sen’s take on India’s IT sector, iWitness.
Fernandez, M. (2018). The New Frontier: Merit vs. Caste in the Indian IT Sector (UK ed.). Oxford University Press. pp 1-54.
4. Technology can also challenge social constructs in their own ways. The New York Times journalist Celia Dugger’s column on a Telecentre project in south India, noted, “In this village at the southern tip of India, the century-old temple has two doors. Through one lies tradition. People from the lowest castes and menstruating women cannot pass its threshold. Inside, the devout perform daily pujas, offering prayers. The Information Age lies through the second door, and anyone may enter.”
Dugger, C. W. (2000, May 28). Connecting Rural India to the World. The New York Times.
5. Fuller and Narasimhan's ethnography on Tamil Brahmins and their dominant role in the IT sectors argued that “Tamil Brahmanhood and middle-classness have become mutually constitutive of each other” (2010: 27).
Fuller, C. & Narasimhan, H. (2014). Tamil brahmans: The making of a middle class caste. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
6. David Mosse, in his review, problematises Fuller’s and Narasimhan's view, as middle-classness was “less an account of social change than of the continuity of privilege”.
Mosse, D. (2015). Anthropology of the Century. AOTC Press.
Gupta, S. (2020). Gendered Gigs. Proceedings of the 2020 International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development, June, 1–10.
Narayan, S. (2020). Past, present, and past as present in India’s predictive policing. XRDS: Crossroads, The ACM Magazine for Students, 27(2), 36–41.
Jeffrey and Doron have mapped out the use of mobile phones to mobilise Dalits in the run-up to Dalit leader Mayawati's remarkable victory in Uttar Pradesh (147-150).
Jeffrey, R., & Doron, A. (2012). The great Indian phone book: How the mass mobile changes business, politics and daily life. London: Hurst.