Foundations in Critical Caste Studies Part II – from “colonial” to the "modern"


1. Gandhi's romantic view of caste-based occupations and division of labour is an example. He wrote an advisory column to all manual scavengers to convert urines and night soils into manure as it is as virtuous as priestly duties.
Gandhi, MK. (1936, November 28). The Ideal Bhangi. Columbia University. Retrieved April 22, 2022. Available online.

2. Aloysius identified "Vedic Brahminism as the cultural core, a pan-Indian territorial extent and an antagonistic polarity with the West/modernity" in producing the Hindu/Hinduism/Hindustan concept.
Aloysius, G. (1998). Nationalism without a Nation in India. New Delhi:  Oxford India Paperbacks. Chapters 2, 3 & 4.
Mani, B. R. (2005). Debrahmanising History: Dominance And Resistance In Indian Society. Manohar. pp. 12-44.

3. An influential critique of Hindutva philosophy, culture, and political economy by Kancha Ilaiah.
Ilaiah, K. (2019). Why I Am Not a Hindu: A Sudra Critique of Hindutva Philosophy, Culture and Political Economy (First ed.). SAGE Publications Pvt. Ltd. pp. 54-101.

4. Sumathy Ramaswamy argues that Bharat Mata is an inevitably Hindu, Sanskritic mother and a forceful cultural representation of Hindu motherhood commonly found in temples in north India. Bharat Mata freed the Hindu nation idea from its religious exclusivity and converted Sanskritic Hinduness into pan-Indian political rhetoric.
Ramaswamy, S. (2001). Maps and Mother Goddesses in Modern India. Imago Mundi, 53. pp. 97-114.

5. Satyanarayana and Tharu’s ground-breaking edited collection brought together a new wave of anti-caste and Dalit writing in which activists, political thinkers and creative writers put into place disturbing yet stimulating propositions about personal and public life in India. No Alphabet in Sight is the first of two volumes to document the Dalit awakening, writing and thought in the south Indian languages that began in the 1990s. This volume brought together the writings of forty intellectuals from every walk of life – teachers, clerks, students, officers, factory workers, journalists and activists.
Satyanarayana, K & Tharu, Susie, (2011). No Alphabet in Sight: New Dalit Writing from South Asia, Dossier 1: Tamil and Malayalam, New Delhi: Penguin Books. Introduction.

6. Focusing on three states—Andhra, Maharashtra and Karnataka—Dr Omvedt analyses the Dalit movement's ideology and organisation and its interaction with the freedom struggle (particularly with Gandhi and Gandhism) and the `class` struggles of the workers and peasants (and their dominant ideology-Marxism).
Omvedt, G. (2008). Dalits and the democratic revolution. New Delhi: Sage. Chapters 1, 2 & 5.

7. Urbanisation, education and capitalism have indeed opened up socio-economic opportunities for Dalits. However, not everyone welcomes this mobility. MSS Pandian analyses an instance of intolerance and violent response of the relatively privileged caste groups in Tamil Nadu to social and political assertion of Dalits.
Pandian, MSS (2000). Dalit Assertion in Tamil Nadu: An Exploratory Note. Journal of Indian School of Political Economy, Vol. 12 (3/4), 501-517.

8. According to Natrajan, post-liberalisation narratives of caste in India offer the trope of benign "normal" caste where caste is private and domesticated. It contrasts with physical violence or “exceptional and sensational occurrence”, labelled as caste atrocities or brutal abnormal caste. Moreover, as this violence is often committed by the so-called backward caste (see the article above) or the "uncivil rural population”, caste-positive cultural narratives are gaining credibility in “modern” India.
Natrajan, B. (2011). The culturalization of caste in India: Identity and inequality in a multicultural age. Abingdon; New York: Routledge. Introduction.

9. But the Brahmin continues to be “modern”.
Fernandez, M. (2018b). The New Frontier: Merit vs Caste in the Indian IT Sector (UK ed.). Oxford University Press. pp 1-32.

10. Dalit Studies has emerged as a new field of study in South Asia since the 1990s, helping to reorient scholarship’s interest away from the study of “untouchability” as a phenomenon toward recognising and recovering Dalit actors. Rawat identifies three broad themes: occupation, dignity, and space, and uses them to survey the literature on Dalit society over the last hundred years.
Rawat, R. (2013): Occupation, dignity, and space: The rise of Dalit studies. History Compass, 11, pp. 1059-1067.

11. An Anthology of Dalit Writing in the independent India.
Satyanarayana, K., & Tharu, S. (2013). The Exercise of Freedom: An Introduction to Dalit Writing. Navayana Publishers. pp. 7-21

12. A searing commentary on contemporary forms of caste manifestations and its symbiotic relationship with Hindutva and market neo-liberalism
Teltumbde, A., & Khilnani, S. (2020). Republic of Caste: Thinking Equality in the Time of Neoliberal Hindutva. New Delhi: Navayana. pp. 46-90; 91-116 & 229-260.
Teltumbde, A. (2020). Hindutva, Dalits and the Neoliberal Order. In Teltumbde, A. (Ed.) Hindutva and Dalits: Perspectives for Understanding Communal Praxis. New Delhi: Sage. pp. 25-52.

13. Gajendran Ayyathurai makes the case for global Critical Caste Studies
Ayyathurai, G. (2021, July 5). It is time for a new subfield: ‘Critical Caste Studies’. LSE South Asia.

14. Paula Chakravartty and Ajantha Subramanian wrote about casteism in the United States and demanded legal protection to end caste inequalities.
Chakravartty, P., & Subramanian, A. (2021, May 25). Opinion | Why Is Caste Inequality Still Legal in America? The New York Times.