ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

39 – Citizens at Risk: Caste, Violence and State Institutions in India

The panel will address the evolving relation between caste, violence and state in an increasingly authoritarian Indian state with a particular focus on how the persistence of caste-based violence represents a challenge for principles such as citizenship and dignity.

Convenors

Dr. Dag-Erik Berg - Associate Professor, Faculty of Business Administration and Social Science, Molde University College, Norway
Dr. L David Lal - Assistant Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Information Technology Guwahati, India
Dr. Shailaja Menon - Assistant Professor, School of Liberal Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi, India

Long Abstract

The panel will address the evolving relation between caste, violence and state in an increasingly authoritarian Indian state with a particular focus on how the persistence of caste-based violence represents a challenge for principles such as citizenship and dignity. It is a long history of caste atrocities. How does one explain the persistence of such violence during the postcolonial period, and to what extent has it changed during the Hindu nationalist regime?

A central question is the extent Dalits have become citizens at risk, which would violate India’s constitutional principles. This appears relevant if the institutions designed to ensure legal protection to Dalits, such as the courts, are unable to attain their official goals and would be vulnerable for exploitation by dominant sections. Secondly, the panel seeks to combine discussions of cases as well as the rationale by perpetuators involved in the cases. It seeks to do so to understand the logics at stake in the violence and the reasons that actors use to justify it. How do members of dominant castes justify their actions and reflect on it after the event? What does it imply for the victim’s dignity and personhood? Justifications in the context of inter-caste marriages are often made with direct reference to the reproduction of caste. The panel welcomes papers that seek to explain what caste represents, the mentalities and ontological desires that reproduce a system of domination, or what Ambedkar calls a system of graded inequalities to address the relation between caste, violence and state power in India’s constitutional democracy.