Webinar 3

The Criminalisation of Anti-Caste Research

and Activism in India

  • This webinar was held on 27 March 2021

  • Listen to the recording on our YouTube channel

  • See the webinar summary below

  • See key messages on our Instagram account here

  • See additional resources list below

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Webinar Summary


Anti-caste academic research and activism in India are increasingly threatened with criminalisation and surveillance from the state: from the arrests of academics and students to the militarisation of campuses, from the banning of books, plays and film screenings to the censorship of activities deemed as detrimental to the reputation of the government. The persecution of academic-activists in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon violence is a case in point (see Webinar 4). Other examples include the specific targeting of anti-caste academics, in particular academics from Dalit and Bahujan backgrounds. Critics of corporate-friendly policies and actions of the government, public intellectuals who take the side of the poorest rural communities and join their struggles against dislocation, land expropriation and ecological destruction, are also regularly attacked and threatened. This webinar discussion sheds light on problem areas that include:

  • Production of Brahminical knowledge and reproduction of caste system: a critique of academic practice. 

  • University as a space of graded inequality: anti-caste student movement and its critique to Brahminic system of power.

  • Materiality of caste mentalities: anti-reservation policies and other strategies of exclusion of anti-caste subjects.   

Our guest speakers

Anjali Arondekar, Associate Professor of Feminist Studies, and founding Co-Director, Center for South Asian Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research engages the poetics and politics of sexuality, caste, and historiography, with a focus on Indian Ocean Studies and South Asia. She is the author of For the Record: On Sexuality and the Colonial Archive in India, winner of the Alan Bray Memorial Book Award for best book in lesbian, gay, or queer studies in literature and cultural studies, Modern Language Association (MLA), 2010. She is co-editor (with Geeta Patel) of “Area Impossible: The Geopolitics of Queer Studies,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies (2016). Her second book, Abundance: Sexuality, Historiography, Geopolitics grows out of her interest in the figurations of sexuality, caste and capital in colonial British and Portuguese India,

Dontha Prashanth, Research Scholar at School of Economics, University of Hyderabad. Dontha's areas of interest include agricultural economics, development economics, economics of caste and discrimination and economic history. He works on contemplating caste in changing economic relations in particular to its relevance in the context of land, labour and the course of economic development. He was President of Ambedkar Students' Association for 2014-2015, and an elected Students' Union President of University of Hyderabad for 2011-2012.


Uma Chakravarti, Feminist historian who has written on caste and gender. Uma is also a filmmaker who makes films on women who have gone to jail for their political work.


Our moderator


Arun Asokan, Post-doctoral Fellow, History and Philosophy of Mathematical Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, Switzerland

This webinar is co-hosted by InSAF IndiaAmbedkar King Study Circle (California), Scholars At Risk, the British Association for South Asian Studies, and the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis (ASCA), University of Amsterdam, The Forum on Education in Asia (UCL), and the SIU University Honors Program

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Additional Resources


Education as Trutiya Ratna: Towards Phule-Ambedkarite Feminist Pedagogical PracticeSharmila RegeEconomic and Political Weekly, 2010

Why the Shudras are Lost in India's Today, Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, The Caravan, 2018