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Confronting Caste is a Seminar and Podcast Series from the King’s India Institute.

Recent events have once again highlighted the global nature of caste as a system of power. In 2018, following a period of public consultation, the UK Government announced its intention to not include ‘caste’ within the scope of definition of ‘race’ under the Equality Act of 2010. In 2020 the State of California in the USA successfully initiated litigation against Cisco – a tech MNC – for caste-based discrimination. In India since 2014, a number of high profile legal and policy questions have been embroiled in caste dynamics. Key examples include the detention without trial of activists in the Bhima-Koregaon case, the allegations of diluting reservations for Other Backward Classes (OBCs), the imposition of GPS tracking devices on (mostly Dalit) sanitation workers in smart cities, and the rising reports of brutal crimes against Dalit, Adivasi, and Bahujan groups.

Confronting Caste is a series of conversations hosted by the King’s India Institute at King’s College London, to bring analytical attention to the question of how caste operates in contemporary society. This means not only studying caste-based discrimination and oppression across trans-national contexts, but also investigating how this relates to other structures and systems. With this aim in mind the Spring 2021 events under the theme of ‘Understanding Race and Caste’ will interrogate the political and intellectual challenges and possibilities of approaching race and caste as overlapping, intersecting, and mutually reinforcing fields of power.

With the publication of Isabel Wilkerson’s (2020) Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents the conversation around race and caste has received fresh attention. While some have lauded Wilkerson’s unprecedented centring of caste as an analytic for race relations in the USA, others have decried the conflation of the two systems of oppression, pointing to the resulting historical erasure. In either case, this presents us with an opportune moment to map the empirical and conceptual terrains for understanding caste and race.

About the series

Dr. Srilata Sircar is the convener and Vignesh Rajahmani is the coordinator of the series.

The events and podcasts will address one or more of the following questions:

What are the ontological overlaps between caste and race? In other words what do the social constructs of ‘race’ and ‘caste’ consist of in contemporary society and are there overlaps between the two?

  • How do empirical and historical accounts of race-relations and caste-relations speak to each other?
  • How do trajectories of capital – local and global – intersect with those of race and caste?
  • What is the common ground between anti-caste and anti-race analysis/politics?
  • In what ways do racialisation and ascription of caste co-operate?
  • What does ‘decolonisation’ look like from an anti-caste perspective?
  • What would an anti-race and anti-caste academy look like? What would its research agenda be?

To stay up to date on the series and podcasts you can register for the King’s India Institute Newsletter.

Watch previous events

You can watch all events in the Confronting Caste series through using this link.

Listen to the Confronting Caste podcast

Catch up on episodes from the Confronting Caste podcast using this link.