Accepted Paper:

Revisiting Berreman's "Race, Caste, and Other Invidious Distinctions": implications for transnational dialogues and intercultural solidarities in challenging racism and related intolerance  


Faye Harrison (Univ of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign )

Paper short abstract:

Revisiting Gerald Berreman’s comparative analysis of race, caste and other invidious distinctions, this paper examines a trajectory of transnational dialogue and networking in which antiracism is conjoined with struggles against related intolerance, notably caste.

Paper long abstract:

During the 1960s, Gerald D. Berreman brought his expertise on India's caste system to bear on an interrogation of race relations in the United States. In response to the debate his writing provoked, he expanded his cross-cultural comparison by examining birth-ascribed stratification of various sorts in not only India and the United States but also Japan, Swat in North Pakistan, and Ruanda. Berreman's comparative analysis followed earlier ethnographic research in the U.S. in which the concept of caste was employed to elucidate the logic and workings of racial discrimination. Within the public sphere, the civil/human rights leaders WEB Du Bois and Martin Luther King, Jr. also addressed Asian-US parallels. In a 1965 speech, King claimed: "Yes, I am an untouchable and every Negro in the United States of America is an untouchable." This paper revisits Berreman, situates him within a broader intellectual and social history of race and caste comparisons and analogies, and links those streams of theory and public discourse to recent trajectories of transnational dialogue and solidarity-building between Dalits and African-descendants in the U.S. and elsewhere in the transatlantic region. The 2001 UN World Conference against Racism, pre- and post-WCAR activities, and the Declaration of Empathy signed in Washington, D.C. during the 2014 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day observance are the principal moments for critically examining the inter-cultural dialogues and networking between Black and Dalit activists along with others (e.g., Roma) who claim a family resemblance despite differences where racisms and related intolerances intersect.

Panel P132
Engaging race and racism in the new millennium: exploring visibilities and invisibilities (IUAES/JASCA joint panel)