Paper abstracts

Kamal R. Adhikary kradhikary at MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU
Fri Mar 27 17:50:43 UTC 1998

Dear colleagues:
        The abstracts  of the papers to be presented at the symposium on
"Affirmative Action in Comparative Perspective: India and the United
States," University of Texas, Austin, 10 April 1998, are
given below:

       "Affirmative Action in Comparative Perspective: India and the
        United States," University of Texas, Austin, 10 April 1998.



 Troy Duster, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley

 "Masking Group Privilege Behind the Rhetoric of Individual Fairness:
  Synchronicity and Harmony Among Historical Elites in India, South Africa,
  and the United States"

       In 1996, I joined a tri-national commission looking at the sharp and
  sometimes dramatic transformations in the composition of the students in
  higher education in South Africa, India and the United States. At first
  glance, it would appear that, on this topic, these three countries have
  little in common. (Albeit the U.S. is characterized as the oldest
  democracy, South Africa the newest, and India the largest democracy).
  Despite important differences, there is an astonishing similarity in the
  rhetoric of each of the historically privileged groups across the nations.
  Since the official end of the caste system in India, in 1948, the higher
  castes have complained about "group preferences" in government policies
  aimed at providing greater access to higher education of the lower castes
  and the "outcastes." Since the Civil Rights Act of 1965, whites in the
  United States have routinely complained about "group preferences" in
  government-backed policies aimed at providing greater access of Blacks to
  higher education. Since the end of apartheid in South Africa in 1993, many
  white South Africans have complained about group preferences in government
  policies aimed at providing greater access of Blacks to higher education. A
  close examination of the rhetoric in relationship to continuing social
  stratifying practices reveals a mask in the new found elevation of "the

 Sunita Parikh, Asst. Professor of Political Science, Washington University

 "Mandal and the Electoral Imperative: Caste and Party Politics in
  Contemporary India"

       The expansion of affirmative action, or reservations, in India, to
  groups beyond its original beneficiaries has been fraught with conflict to
  a far greater extent than the analogous policy in the United States. Yet
  while American affirmative action is under strong pressure from the public,
  elected officials, and the courts, Indian reservations continue to be
  institutionalized. What explains these divergent outcomes? In this paper I
  argue that the differences in the sizes of the targeted groups, the nature
  of party politics, and the symbolic and practical salience of the policies
  for the "backward classes" made it impossible for any party, even the
  upper-caste-based Bharatiya Janata Party, to repudiate reservations in
  theory or practice. But it is not enough to merely note the endurance of
  reservations as a result of the interests of critical voters and
  vote-seeking politicians. The institutionalization of new forms of
  caste-conscious policies have had major ramifications not just for
  politics, but for the ways groups identify themselves in the political
  arena. In current Indian politics, myriad caste categories are being
  collapsed into two main groups: the "forwards" and "backwards." These two
  groups, along with Dalits and minorities (mainly Muslims), comprise the
  vast majority of the electorate, and all parties are forced to attract
  support from both "forwards" and "backwards" if they hope to play a role at
  the center. I explore the case of Bihar to to evaluate the effects of the
  "Mandalization" of caste politics in a specific context.


 Ravina Aggarwal, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Smith College
"Reserving the Border: The Question of Tribal Identity in Indi

 In 1989, after a series of negotiations and protests, 85% of the residents
 of the Ladakh Himalayas were granted Scheduled Tribe status by the
 government of India.  In this paper, I explore the construction of tribal
 identity in Ladakh by discussing the implications of reservation policies
 on categories of religion, class and national citizenship.  These issues
 become all the more poignant given Ladakh's strategic location in the
 state of Jammu and Kashmir bordering Pakistan and occupied Tibet.  By
 linking these events to the flows of global capital and militarization in
 the area, I attempt to locate avenues through which critical area studies
 research can provide insights into the cross-cultural understanding of
 affirmative action.

   "For I am also Jim Crowed": India in the heart of Black America.

   Vijay Prashad, Assistant Professor of International Studies, Trinity

   While American Orientalism (Emerson, Whitman, Thoreau) saw "India" as the
   font of spirituality, Black Americans found in India another front in the
   fight against white supremacy.  While the Vedanta Society attracted
   alienated white Americans, THE CRISIS reported on the work of the Indian
   nationalist movement.  The divergence in these views will be explored in
  this essay.  I will also trace the shift in the view of "Gandhi," at once the
   messiah of struggle, but now, in some circles, considered to be anti-dalit.
   Here I will offer an analysis of Rajshekar's The Black Untouchable, Dalit
   borrowings from the black liberation movement, as well as the activism of
   Dalits in the US from the 1970s onwards.

   Discussant: Eleanor Zeliot

The abstracts are also posted at:, and


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