EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

(P033)
Towards a transnational anthropology of power: legacies and linkages of caste, race, and gender
Location U6-38
Date and Start Time 23 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Gajendran Ayyathurai (Goettingen University, Germany ) email
  • Joel Lee (Williams College) email

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Short Abstract

The six panelists from India, Europe, and USA will examine caste-based, racialized, and gendered forms of power. Their papers will speak to specific as well as comparative anthropological understandings of power, subjectivities and movements against it, in South Asia and North America.

Long Abstract

This panel's main concern is to engage in anthropologically informed conversation on caste, race, and gender. In contrast to the structural and descriptive approaches to caste and race in anthropology, the turn towards a comparative analysis of people situated in and struggle against social, cultural, material, historical, and intersectional conditions of caste-based, racialized and gendered relations is rare. Scholars who are engaged in the anthropology of power in the context of caste and gender in South Asia exchanging their theoretical and empirical understandings with their colleagues working in the context of race and gender in North America is even harder to find in anthropological venues. The six panelists from India, Europe, and USA, therefore, will grapple with the questions as follows: How and why people experience caste-based, racialized, and gendered structures of power? What are the forms of oppressed people's counter hegemonic discourses and practices against graded inequalities of cultural, material, and historical normalization of power? What are the possibilities for a comparative understanding of subjectivities and movements emerging against intersectionalities of caste, race, gender, and class? How intellectualist approaches that have specifically addressed oppression of casteism and/or racism, their implications on gendered and segmented sociality, such as Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar and Iyothee Thass in India and Du Bois in the USA, become crucial in the understanding of power and critique against hierarchy, repression and categories of exclusion.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Brahmin power: an historical anthropology of Brahmin violence

Author: Gajendran Ayyathurai (Goettingen University, Germany )  email

Short Abstract

Engaging vernacular archives, brahminical religious texts, and recent historical anthropological studies, this paper examines the emergence of brahmin power in late colonial India and oppressed people's counter hegemonic discursive against brahmin violence.

Long Abstract

Caste has remained an institution of cultural and political maneuvers since colonial times in South Asia. Scholarly studies have shown that the colonial anthropologists' and Indologists' fascination with varnas and jatis (caste classifications) served racialized colonial motives, on the one hand. On the other, they point to the emergence of brahmins as a preeminent community from colonial times into post-colonial India. However, what has not been adequately examined is how the crystallization of brahmin power, underpinning the ironic emergence of "brahmin as modern," has turned brahmins into violent practitioners of caste-based discrimination and "historic deprivations" in Indian society. Engaging vernacular archives, brahminical religious texts, and recent historical anthropological studies this paper argues that the ascendance of brahmins, brahminism, has depended on symbolic and real violence and systematic deprivation of certain people as its Other, as untouchables, then and now. The critical questions which animate this paper are: how and in what ways brahmin groups have acquired and inherited power over all others they discriminated, such as lower castes and untouchables; how have those who were discriminated as untouchables responded to brahmin power in late colonial India?

"We have caste everywhere": global political mobilizations in the nineteenth century

Author: Demetrius Eudell (Wesleyan University)  email

Short Abstract

The presentation examines the politics of using caste as a metonym for social and political subordination.

Long Abstract

Among others, Nicholas B. Dirks has compellingly argued that the phenomenon of caste has served very powerfully, in both popular and academic imaginations, as the metonymic index of "the basic form and expression of Indian society" (1992). Building upon this insight, this presentation examines the use of the idea of caste as a metonym for social and political subordination, and especially with regard to racial hierarchy in the United States. It does by an investigation of the political discourse that emerged in U.S. in the wake of the abolition of slavery, such as with the Radical Republican Senator Charles Sumner's seminal 1869 lecture "The Question of Caste." Additionally, the core of the presentation's argument will be based on an analysis of the international journal Anti-Caste (1888-1893, 1895), a monthly which offered commentary and analysis that were often based on republished/excerpted articles and speeches. Previous scholarship has illuminated the biography of the founder and the institutional history of journal. This presentation however concentrates more closely on the implications of the conceptual breakthroughs found in one of the earliest journals that sought to challenge social and political hierarchies across the world. Moreover, despite its complexities, the presentation will demonstrate the way in which important groundwork for intersectional models of analyses of race, culture, religion, and indigeneity were being in the nineteenth century.

Ambedkar's revolt against caste in India: studying emancipation outside the anthropological framework of caste and race

Author: Dag Erik Berg (University of Göttingen)  email

Short Abstract

The paper sheds critical light on concepts such as outcasts and Pariah in social and political theory, pointing out how they are incompatible with historical revolts against caste based oppression in India.

Long Abstract

This paper will problematise the anthropological legacy on comparing caste and race by focusing on how revolts against caste based oppression in India has been completely sidelined in the terminology that has been used in social and political theory. Critical reference will be made to the understandings of outcastes and Pariah that Max Weber and subsequently Hannah Arendt used in their influential writings on social exclusion. Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar is a prominent example of revolt against caste based oppression in India, and the paper will discuss concepts to analyse his struggle for emancipation.

Dalit power in the old order

Author: Joel Lee (Williams College)  email

Short Abstract

To foreground the history of Dalit occult power is to rethink 'untouchability' in classic and current theorizations of caste in South Asia.

Long Abstract

The anthropology of caste in India has tended to represent the Dalit or 'untouchable' inhabiting one of two roles: the abject bearer of pollution in culturalist accounts of Hindu society, or the vanguard of political modernity in historicist, caste-critical narratives. A careful examination of the ethnographic record from the late nineteenth century onward reveals a third pattern, as widespread as it is undertheorized, of Dalits as sorcerers, of the segregated Dalit hamlet as a feared and sought-after site of supernatural power alternative to brahminical power. This paper, drawing on fieldwork among the Dalit sanitation labor castes of the north Indian districts of Lucknow and Bara Banki, relates oral traditions of these communities to a broad range of historical ethnographic sources in order to argue for a revised account of how pollution works in the 'traditional' caste order. I put descriptions of Dalit occult power into conversation with Bourdieu's analysis of the religious 'field' and its exclusions, contending that Dalit 'pollution' is inextricably entwined with Dalit occult mastery, both in the internal perspective of Dalit oral tradition and from the point of view of dominant groups who patronized Dalit sorcerers.

The Gaboye of Somaliland: institutional marginality and pathways of emancipation

Author: Elia Vitturini (University of Milano-Bicocca)  email

Short Abstract

Marriage and professional segregation, together with ideological supports describing a degraded human condition, led scholars of the Somali territories to label the Gaboye of Somaliland as "occupational caste". The paper analyzes their institutional marginality and their pathways of emancipation.

Long Abstract

The debate about occupational castes in Africa is open. Some scholars have used this analytical category to conceptualize forms of stratification in Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Ethiopia and other countries as well. Some others have criticized it. Alula Pankhurst, for instance, has contested to the criteria associated with caste in India the capacity to represent the spatial and temporal dynamism that marginalization shows in Africa, or at least in the south-western Ethiopian groups he studied. The casted groups of Somali territories have been often reported but never thoroughly investigated. By drawing on a fieldwork carried out between 2014 and 2015 in the capital of Somaliland, Hargeisa, this paper illustrates the social and political trajectory of emancipation of the Gaboye, a recent denomination that brings together an ensemble of groups colonial scholars like Enrico Cerulli described in terms of caste. To counter their marginality in the overall social and political frame of Somaliland society, the Gaboye have taken a series of initiatives, starting with the 1950s successful attempt to enter into the blood-compensation exchanges with the other Somali genealogical groups, from which they were formerly excluded.

Suspending the verdict over the appropriateness of the category of caste in the study of Somali territories but not its analytical fertility, this paper offers historical and ethnographic material on the Gaboye's legacies of marginality that are significant in the comparative frame of the panel.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.