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Caste: The New and the Old in 21st Century India

What is the state of the caste monster in twentieth century India? Have the forms of discrimination and inequality altered? What is the experience of belonging to a less privileged caste? This lecture will try to address this vast and complicated story by focusing on what caste means for young people in India today. I will explore two issues: one, the experience of caste for young people in higher educational institutions. What are the continuing areas of inequality and discrimination that young people may face based on their caste identity? At the same time what are the implications of the growing dalit and anti-caste movements on campuses?
In addition, I will explore what we can learn about caste from the sharp and violent reaction to some romantic relationships that cut across caste lines. What are the changing caste equations that are evident from these conflicts around love in contemporary India?

Janaki Abraham is a sociologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology, Delhi University, Delhi. Her doctoral research focused on an intermediate caste group in North Kerala which suffered disprivileges of caste. One of her central areas of interests is exploring the intersection of caste, gender and kinship. She is currently finalising her book manuscript titled ‘Gender, caste and matrilineal kinship: Shifting boundaries in twentieth century Kerala’. Her other areas of interest are visual cultures of south India, and the study of gendered spaces in towns in India. She is author of several articles on subjects such as gender, caste, and colour, marriage and matriliny, wedding videos in south India, and an exploration of gender and space in Bikaner, Rajasthan through veiling practices among Hindu and Muslim women. She is Reviews Editor for the journal Contributions to Indian Sociology. Janaki has been a part of the women’s movement in New Delhi for more than twenty years and in particular has worked closely on the issue of sexual harassment.

With the lecture series “Understanding India” the Heinrich Boell Foundation offers insights into select areas of society in order to contribute to a better understanding of the subcontinent.
We have invited renowned experts, largely from the region, to explain India’s complexities and to promote an understanding of this key regional, but also global player.

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