Meritocracy and Democracy: The Social Life of Caste in India

Date(s) - 14/01/2021
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

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Co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology (U of T) and Tamil Worlds Initiative (U of T Scarborough).



How does the utopian democratic ideal of meritocracy reproduce historical inequality? My larger project pursues this question through a historical anthropology of engineering education in India. It looks at the operations of caste, the social institution most emblematic of ascriptive hierarchy, within the modern field of engineering education. At the heart of the study are the Indian Institutes of Technology, or IITs, a set of highly coveted engineering colleges that are equally representative of Indian meritocracy and, until recently, of caste exclusivity. In this talk, I hope to show that the politics of meritocracy at the IITs illuminates the social life of caste in contemporary India. Rather than the progressive erasure of ascribed identities in favor of putatively universal ones, what we are witnessing is the rearticulation of caste as an explicit basis for merit and the generation of newly consolidated forms of upper casteness.

Ajantha Subramanian, Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies, Harvard University

Chinnaiah Jangam, Associate Professor, Department of History, Carleton University

Bhavani Raman, Associate Professor, Department of Historical and Cultural Studies, University of Toronto

Sponsor: Centre for South Asian Studies at the Asian Institute
Co-sponsors: Department of Anthropology (U of T) and the Tamil Worlds Initiative (U of T Scarborough)



Jan 14, 2021 04:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)