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April is Dalit history month. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar would have been 129 years this April 2020. In an attempt to understand an ingenious thinker like Dr. Ambedkar, this discussion will examine his legacy in the context of today’s India which is increasingly polarised and divided.
The distinguished speakers (all research scholars) will help us understand how Ambedkar would have reacted to the issues of the day – the state of democracy and constitutional morality, while exploring his ideas of justice, religion, equality, nationalism and affirmative action.
Valerian Rodrigues is an Indian political scientist. He is known for his seminal work on Babasaheb Ambedkar, and for his formulations of themes in Modern Indian Political Thought. He has made substantial contributions to the debate on the working of the Indian Parliament, constitutionalism in India, and agrarian politics in India. As a Professor at the Centre for Political Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, he was popular for his lectures on Indian and South Asian Political Thought, and critically reading the same through political concepts of modernity, secularism and nationalism. Before joining JNU, Rodrigues taught at the Department of Political Science at Mangalore University, Karnataka, India. In recent years has been a National Fellow with the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR), Visiting Professor, Department of Humanities, Simon Fraser Vancouver, B.C., Canada and has held the Ambedkar Chair, Ambedkar University, Delhi.
Anupama Rao is Senior Editor, Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East; Associate Director, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society; co-convenor (with Ana-Paulina Lee) of a project on Geographies of Injustice hosted by Columbia’s Center for the Study of Social Difference, and supported by the Social Science Research Council; and founder of the Ambedkar Initiative
She has been writing about anti-caste thought, South Asian feminism, and social theory for over a decade.Her book, The Caste Question(University of California Press, 2009) theorized caste subalternity, with specific focus on the role of anti-caste thought (and its thinkers) in producing alternative genealogies of political subject-formation. Her recent books include the edited volume Gender, Caste, and the Imagination of Equality (Women Unlimited) and Memoirs of A Dalit Comminist: The Many Worlds of R. B. More (Leftword Books), which she edited and introduced. Rao is currently working on the Cambridge Companion to Ambedkar; book on the political thought of B. R. Ambedkar; and a project titled Dalit Bombay, which explores the relationship between caste, political culture, and everyday life in colonial and postcolonial Bombay.
Dr. Suraj Yengde is an award-winning scholar and activist from India. He is an author of bestseller Caste Matters. The book went to reprint within a week of it’s publication date. Caste Matters was recently featured in the prestigious “Best Non-fiction Books of the Decade” list by The Hindu.
Suraj is an inaugural postdoctoral fellow at the Initiative for Institutional Anti-racism and Accountability, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Suraj is India’s first Dalit Ph.D. holder from an African university (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg) in the nation’s history.
Suraj is a published author in the field of Caste, Race, Ethnicity studies, and inter-regional labor migration in the global south. Currently, he is involved in developing a critical theory of Dalit and Black Studies.
Suraj is nominated to India’s highest literary award, “Sahitya Akademi” and is a recipient of “Dr. Ambedkar Social Justice Award” Canada 2019, “Rohith Vemula Memorial Scholar Award” 2018.
Suraj inaugurated a popular column ‘Dalitality’ at the Indian Express that centers on the issues of caste in India. Dalitality is the currently the only column in the print media to have Dalit centric opinions.
Asim is a faculty member at the School of Arts and Sciences, Azim Premji University since 2016. He has taught as a visiting faculty for the Study Abroad program of University of Minnesota (MSID) in collaboration with Environment Support Group, Bangalore. He finished his doctoral studies at Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities, where his PhD thesis was inquiring into the “Pedagogy of Non-discriminatory action”. Engaging with the tension between ethical and political education addressing identity-based discrimination, he explored the critiques of Normativism and Utilitarianism by Feminist and Indian philosophy. He further conceptualized the role of body, experience and practice in the pedagogy of non-discrimination. This involved an ethnographic fieldwork in movement arts education which allowed him to bring aesthetic dimensions into his research.
Before his stint in Humanities, Asim was trained in technology with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from IIT Delhi, and worked in Technology and Development sector for 4 years.