Contemporary Anti-Caste Utopias: A Dalit Bahujan Discourse of Emancipatory Social Transformation
This panel aims at investigating how the ideas of the historical anti-caste thinkers resonate today in the works of new intellectual leaders, histories, iconography, literature, social movements and oral narratives reproducing and re-actualizing the anti-caste intellectual tradition.
· N. Sukumar Department of Political Science, University of Delhi (New Delhi, India)
· Shailaja Menon School of Liberal Studies / School of Undergraduate Studies, Ambedkar University (New Delhi, India)
The Real Utopias Project was started in early 1990s by Marxist sociologists in search of alternatives to existing structures of power, privilege and inequality. However, this philosophical framework did not widen its study to diverse categories, dimensions and manifestations of class in different societies outside Western world. This panel intends to critique, engage and expand The Real Utopias Project within a Dalit Bahujan framework of emancipatory social transformation. In a deeply hierarchical Indian society, any notion of equality and self-respect can be considered a fantasy. However, the anti-caste thinkers in India envisioned utopias to contradict their inhuman reality. In the alternate epistemology proposed by Phule, Ambedkar, Periyar, Tarabai Shinde and Rokeya Hussain to name a few, human suffering was foregrounded in ‘here and now’, not in some remote sinful past. In the process, they dwelt on equal resource distribution, a sense of collectivity and a more equitable society. The ideas and works of the historical anti-caste intellectuals have received significant academic attention. However, what needs to be explored further is the reproduction of the anti-caste thought and tradition. What is the relevance of the historical anti-caste thinkers in the present day context? How do their ideas spread and ramify through new thinkers, ideologies and social movements? This panel aims at investigating how the ideas of the historical anti-caste ideologues resonate today in the works of new Dalit Bahujan intellectual leaders, histories, iconography, social movements, oral narratives reproducing and re-actualizing the anti-caste intellectual and political tradition.