The theory of caste and the antecedent hierarchical system has received growing interest in the past two centuries. In contemporary times, there has been a surge among researchers and scholars to locate the category of caste. Various theories have tried to base the ‘origins’ of caste in religion, society, or Indian culture since the arrival of Aryans in the Indian subcontinent (2000 BCE). This talk will look at the episodes of making caste a category of modern interest during colonial times. By centring attention on the experiences of Dalits and untouchability it reframes the approach and examines the development of anti-caste body-politics through the rise of popular Dalit social and political movements. This version of caste history departs from the reliance on the orientalist and occidental interpretations of Indian society, and inserts new theories of caste politics.
Suraj Yengde’s recent appointment was a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School He is currently a research associate at the department of African and African American Studies, and a non-resident fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, and as well part of the founding team of the Initiative for Institutional Anti-Racism and Accountability (IARA) at Harvard University. He has studied on four continents (Asia, Africa, Europe, North America), and is India’s first Dalit PhD holder from an African university (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg). Suraj Yengde is an International Human Rights attorney by qualification from India and the UK, and has published over 100 essays, articles, and book reviews in multiple languages in the field of caste, race, ethnicity studies, and labour migration in the global south. Named one of the ‘25 Most Influential Young Indians‘ by GQ magazine and the ‘Most influential Young Dalit’ by Zee, Suraj is the author of Caste Matters (2019) and co-editor (with Anand Teltumbde) of the award winning anthology The Radical in Ambedkar (2018). His forthcoming books are Caste: A New History of the World (2022), and a biography of B. R. Ambedkar (2022).
The ICI lecture series ‘Reduction’ explores the critical potentials of notions and practices of ‘reduction’, within and across different fields and approaches. One of the most devastating charges levelled against theories, analyses, and descriptions is that of being reductive or of amounting to a full-blown reductionism. Conceptual frameworks are scolded for being impoverished and descriptions for being too sparse or flat. And conversely, to call something ‘irreducible’ seems to confer an immediate and indisputable dignity to it. And yet the history of science and knowledge cannot be told without acknowledging the importance of reductionist programmes; reductive paradigms have periodically revitalized the arts. What lies at the root of such different attitudes towards ‘reduction’? Can one embrace forms of reduction that are not in the service of production, allowing for the possibility of a ‘less’ that would no longer have to amount to ‘more’?