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Casteism can be described, among other things, as a deep-rooted prejudice that motivates and leads to caste-based atrocities and discrimination against the ‘lower castes’ and outcastes (Dalits) of the Indian subcontinent and Indian diaspora. Such discrimination is multi-layered and is on the rise. As of 2020, every 10 minutes a crime is committed against a Dalit, and every day 8 Dalit women are subjected to rape in India. Crimes against the Dalits include murder, lynching, massacre, suicide, social ostracization, economic exploitation, and sexual abuse. Multiple instances of caste-based discrimination, specifically in the Indian diaspora of the USA and UK (e.g. the incident at the BAPS temple, New Jersey; the CISCO case, etc.), confirm that casteism is not confined to the Indian subcontinent and that, as apprehended by Babasaheb Ambedkar, caste has indeed become a global problem. Remarkably, European Union has repeatedly taken note of rampant casteism and has resolved to eliminate caste discrimination. As summed up by Anand Teltumbde, capitalist modernity, the republican constitution, neoliberalism, and globalisation, all have failed to prevent the persistence of casteism.

The proposed conference on ‘Theorising Anticasteism’ sets out to explore why casteism persists even in the 21st century, particularly through a dual gesture of ‘unmasking the unethical operations of caste’ (Meena Dhanda) and a critique of the history, strategies, and achievements of anticaste movements. Both the terms ‘anticaste’ and ‘anticasteism,’ used without a hyphen but subject to debate, are intended to be annotated and theorised at length. Anticasteism, at a preliminary level, could be considered both as praxis and a critical conceptual category. Theorising anticasteism simultaneously opens up possibilities of interrogating the history and contemporaneity of anticaste resistance and reformulating the problem of casteism at material, ideological, sociological, philosophical, phenomenological, psychological, clinical and artistic and representational levels. The conference thereby aims at revisiting and expanding on the project of ‘annihilation of caste’ proposed by Babasaheb Ambedkar in 1936.

The works of Gajendran Ayyathurai (‘Critical Caste Studies’), Dhanda (‘Philosophical Foundations of Anti-casteism’), Gopal Guru (‘theoretical Brahmins and empirical Shudra’), Kancha Ilaiah (‘Dalitisation’), Sushrut Jadhav (casteism as ‘psychological ethnocide’), Balmurli Natrajan (‘culturalization of caste’), Shailaja Paik (Dalit women’s ‘double discrimination’), Teltumbde (‘Theorising Dalit movements,’ Caste atrocities as ‘India’s hidden apartheid’), and Suraj Yengde (‘many shades of Dalits’), among others, will be addressed as points of reference for the papers presented at this conference.

Papers will fall within the following METHODOLOGICAL range:

1. Close readings of casteist and anti-caste texts (literature, films, graphic narratives, popular culture, politico-philosophical works, and scriptures)

2. Critical study of anti caste thinkers

3. Analysis of specific cases of caste-based violence

4. Historicising pivotal events of anticaste movement

5. Key concepts in theorising anticasteism

There is no registration fee but all speakers and participants must register online before 30th May 2022 by filling in a Google Form available here.

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