ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Browsing through 51 Years of EPW | How Egalitarian Are the Social Sciences in India?

Social science practice in India has harboured a cultural hierarchy dividing it into a vast, inferior mass of academics who pursue empirical social science and a privileged few who are considered the theoretical pundits with reflective capacity which makes them intellectually superior to the former. To use a familiar analogy, Indian social science represents a pernicious divide between theoretical brahmins and empirical shudras.

Ethics in Ambedkar’s Critique of Gandhi

Among the political thinkers of modern India, Gandhi and Ambedkar have elicited an intellectual enthusiasm among scholars who remain arrested in debates on the pre-eminence of one thinker over the other. The Ambedkarite critique of Gandhi is centred on the latter’s fast unto death in opposition to the MacDonald Award of separate electorates for Dalits. Formalistic readings of Gandhi are not in the interest of the robust, associative and inclusive intellectual tradition at the core of Ambedkar’s emancipatory project. Ambedkar was a pathfinder who chose critique as a method of ethical persuasion to gently pull in and retain members of caste society in the interlocutory framework of conversation.

Shifting Categories in the Discourse on Caste and Class

The categories of caste and class are undergoing radical change. Global capital has worked against the articulation of shared experiences of exploitation. This holds true for both caste and class. The left's historic failure in not comprehending the exploiting role of caste has militated against class solidarity. There are, however, incipient movements that try to overcome this traditional weakness of the left.

Two Conceptions of Morality

Deepening democracy is premised on the moral capacity to, first, overcome illegitimate prejudice with the force of reason, and second, to genuinely follow the principle of radical rotation of political ositions. Failureto follow such a principle or to practice rhetorical rotation is just to pay lip service to the concept of deep democracy. Mainstream political parties in India have followed the principle of rhetorical rotation. Given the little experience that we have had with the Aam Aadmi Party, it is yet to base its new politics on a morally robust commitment to transformative, rather than reformative, politics.

Publicly Talking about Caste

An unsual sociological experiment was conducted during the first half of 2013 in the Kannada daily Prajavāni to explore how we can collectively think about caste and through this ask whether it was possible for the public to challenge stablished beliefs about concepts such as caste, democracy and privacy.

Freedom of Expression and the Life of the Dalit Mind

Under what conditions does freedom of expression enable the dalit to live a life of the mind? Does the foregrounding of the body and the elevation of bodily expression – whether it is in spectacular consumption or corruption – really help the dalit struggle for dignity and emancipation? This intervention into the debate which started after Ashis Nandy’s controversial comments regarding corruption and dalits made at the Jaipur Literature Festival seeks to critique the very epistemological and ontological foundations on which Nandy’s assertions were based and whose defence provided an opportunity for the elites to repeat the rituals of humiliation and subjugation of the dalits.

Rise of the 'Dalit Millionaire'

Dalit efforts to move from the ordinary and explode into the extraordinary as millionaires may look spectacular, particularly when they do not have a known history of capital accumulation. But what does this sudden rise of a few dalits to the position of millionaires signify? Using Debord's framework of the ideology of spectacle as false consciousness, which forges a fake association between a person or a social collectivity and the spectacle, this essay analyses the dalit millionaire as a spectacle within the context of caste, the corporate sector and the state.

The Idea of India: 'Derivative, Desi and Beyond'

The dalit discourse in India presents a sharp contrast to the "derivative" and the "desi" discourses governing nationalist thought and the "idea of India". The dalit discourse goes "beyond" the two in offering an imagination that is based on a "negative" language which however transcends into a normative form of thinking. The dalit goes beyond both the derivative and desi inasmuch as it foregrounds itself in the local configuration of power, which is constitutive of the hegemonic orders of capitalism and brahminism.

Archaeology of Untouchability

Untouchability as a dynamic reality is bound to produce experience which is always in excess of its description. Hence, the available description is often inadequate to capture the totality of the meaning of the experience. To capture the full experience of untouchability, one requires to invoke other perspectives and methods. This paper argues that at the moment there could be two such frameworks - the philosophical and the archaeological - that could open to us much richer and nuanced meanings of the phenomenon of untouchability.


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