Living in Caste: Identity as Resistance
December 4th, 2013
Cory Hall, Room 521, UC Berkeley
Caste and untouchability constitute an integral part of the South Asian psyche; As immigration and mobility of people from South Asia continues, caste, consciously or unconsciously forms a part of the interaction between those of South Asian origin, new additions to the diaspora and non-South Asians as well; An understanding of the existence and pervasiveness of caste is something that needs to be named and recognized.
Further, the practice of untouchability, is a millennia old practice that pre-dates Apartheid and penetrates deeper in the mindset of even the so-called “modern” South Asian; We seek to raise the consciousness of progressives on this issue as it morphs in the presence of modernity and hides in plain sight in the experiences of those who live it in their everyday lives, either through interactions with the South Asian and Indian diaspora or even with family and friendships in South Asia.
We will be screening excerpts from the 2005 film India Untouched; Director Stalin K. spent four years traveling the length and breadth of the country to expose the continued oppression of “Dalits”, the “broken people” who suffer under a 4000-year-old religious system. It exposes the continuation of caste practices and Untouchability in Sikhism, Christianity and Islam, and even amongst the communists in Kerala. But the film highlights signs of hope, too: the powerful tradition of Dalit drumming is used to call people to the struggle, and a young Dalit girl holds her head high after pulling water from her village well for the first time in her life. Spanning eight states and four religions, this film will make it impossible for anyone to deny that Untouchability continues to be practiced in India.
This will be followed by a Panel Discussion; Panelists:
T. Sound: Aligning with scholars who have compared untouchability in India with racism in the US, T. Sound, a second generation Indian American, speaks of Black Indians and invisible communities. She has addressed the politics of Indian identities in America, the presence (and widespread denial) of caste consciousness and prejudice, and the often unrecognized contributions of Dalits to debates such as the 2005 controversy over representation of Hinduism in California school textbooks. T. Sound has taken up a a traditional Dalit vocation of singing and storytelling. A performer, filmmaker, and transmedia artist, she will include song and story in her presentation. She has visited India extensively to research and raise awareness about Dalit exclusion and discrimination in India and diaspora;
Harish Wankhede: Currently working as a Visiting Scholar at the Center for South Asia, Stanford University, his academic research is to see the interconnections between socio-religious identities (Dalit, Adivasis and Muslims), democracy and Institutional policies. Harish’s doctoral thesis is on ‘Secularism and Social Justice: Religious Minorities and Pursuit of Equality’, awarded by the Center for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Harish teaches Political Science at the Ram Lal Anand College of the Delhi University. For the last 5 years, he has contributed research articles and journalistic essays in some of the major periodicals, magazines and newspapers in India
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