Casteism in India vs Racism in the US: a Comparative Approach

Episode Summary:

Continuing conversations in his own research and events such as Annihilation of Caste, Dr. William “Sandy” Darity hosts three guests to compare and contrast Casteism in India, and Racism in the United States. 

Dr. Nico Slate, head of the History Department at the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, joined by his PhD student Arko Dasgupta and Dr. Amit Thorat of Jawaharlal Nehru University explore the experiences of disadvantaged groups of people in catastrophes throughout history. It is noted that typically, those who have been disadvantaged historically (such as Black Americans in the United States and Dalits and Tribals in India) have fared worse than others. The importance of coming together and forming coalitions is discussed in order to fight against the oppression and exclusion that leads to immense inequality in the world.

In the conversation, the speakers discuss the similarities and differences between casteism and racism. The commentators discuss the relationship between caste and race, and whether or not Wilkerson’s thesis  about the superiority of caste as a concept for understanding intergroup disparities is accurate. They note that both systems are based on beliefs about specific groups of people, and that both systems have resulted in discrimination and violence against those groups. However, they also note that there are some key differences between the two systems.

The conversation touches on the difficulties of marrying across castes, the concept of “purity”, as well as prominent figures in the U.S. civil rights movement and those whom who in protest of the caste system in India. 

For more information on relevant terms and figures mentioned in this episode, we encourage you to visit the reference links below.

Topics/Resources Discussed in this Episode:

Episode transcript:

Full episode transcript can be found here

DR. AMIT THORAT is an Assistant Professor at the Center for the Study of Regional Development at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Prior to this he worked as an Associate Fellow at the National Council for Applied Economics Research (NCAER), New Delhi, where he was part of the India Human Development Survey team. He obtained his PhD in Economics from the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning (CESP), JNU. His research has been on issues of income, educational and health inequalities in general and across social, ethnic and religious groups in particular, in the context of India. At present he is working on understanding peopls beliefs around personal and social identity in India and its implications on social behavior, individual distress and economic outcomes. His earlier work includes examining gains for small and marginal farmers from high value fruits and vegitable production as well as from farmer owned-cooperative farming.

ARKO DASGUPTA is a PhD candidate/ ABD in the Department of History at Carnegie Mellon University. His research interests include Modern India, the British Empire, the American Civil Rights Movement, intellectual history, and race.

DR. NICO SLATE’S research and teaching focus on the history of social movements in the United States and India. He is the author of four books: Lord Cornwallis Is Dead: The Struggle for Democracy in the United States and India (Harvard University Press in 2019); Gandhi’s Search for the Perfect Diet: Eating with the World in Mind (University of Washington Press, 2019); The Prism of Race: W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson and the Colored World of Cedric Dover (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014); and Colored Cosmopolitanism: The Shared Struggle for Freedom in the United States and India (Harvard University Press, 2012). He is also the editor of Black Power Beyond Borders (Palgrave MacMillan, 2013), a volume that tracks the global dimensions of the Black Power movement.

Dr. Slate is the director of the Bajaj Rural Development Lab and, and the faculty director of LEAP, a program for high school students who are passionate about the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Born in Los Angeles and raised in California’s Mojave Desert, he earned degrees in Earth Systems and the Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities from Stanford University and in Environmental Change and Management from Oxford University before completing his Ph.D. in History at Harvard University.

To read more about Nico Slate, please visit his personal website.