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

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Is Ambedkar’s Prejudice against ‘Tribe’ a Settled Matter?

A Monument to Academic Carelessness

A challenge is mounted against the widespread assumption that Ambedkar was prejudiced against “tribe,” by revealing acts of academic carelessness that occur in the writings of some scholars through the cherry-picking of quotes and failure to historically contextualise the same. Some such popular (mis)quotes and Ambedkar’s writings on tribe over a period of time are investigated, taking into account both their immediate and larger historical context, to argue that there are better ways to make sense of Ambedkar’s stance on the subject.


Many thanks to Rajmohan Gandhi, Ramachandra Guha, Anand Kumar, Abhay Dubey, Hilal Ahmad, and Lenin C C for reading and commenting on earlier drafts of this paper. Especially so, to Guha for also providing much-needed and extensive editorial support to this paper. All errors and conclusions contained herein are of the author’s alone.

The phrase “monuments to academic carelessness” is borrowed from Katherine Frost Bruner (1942: 68), in which she refers to “inaccurate references” as monuments to the writer’s carelessness. In this paper, the phrase is used to connote more than just inaccurate references in the works of some scholars who have written on B R Ambedkar’s views on tribe. I argue that the writings of these scholars reveal academic carelessness because their writings are informed by the assumption that Ambedkar’s prejudice against tribe is a settled matter, requiring no further investigation. This paper is divided into two parts: the first part offers a few examples of such academic carelessness in the works of some scholars, while the second part investigates Ambedkar’s thoughts on tribe over a period of time, taking into account both their immediate and larger historical context.

Monuments to Academic Carelessness

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Updated On : 9th Aug, 2021
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