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JUSTICE, EPISTEMIC VIOLENCE IN SOUTH ASIAN STUDIES AND THE NEBULOUS ENTITY OF CASTE IN OUR AGE OF CHAOS

Werner Menski
South Asia Research, Vol. 36(3): 299–321, 2016

abstract This editorial article covers much more than Dalits and untouchability, because ‘caste’ itself is about life, similar to the inevitably related human constructs of ‘law’, ‘religion’, ‘society’, ‘culture’ and also ‘race’ and ‘gender’. This article and the contributions in this Special Issue will not resolve the ongoing turbulences over caste, but may be useful tools to identify avenues for more constructive debates, rather than acrimonious exchanges. The key argument of the present article is that while difference is part of the human experience everywhere, ‘caste’, however disagreeable, remains an ancient culture-specific component of the intensely plural current identity of South Asia and South Asians, wherever they may be in the world today. It seems impossible to deny, ban or abolish this entity, which continues to serve as an identity marker, often in efforts to resist ongoing discriminations. Academic debates thus
need to develop more constructive and sophisticated methods in various current attempts to acknowledge the multivocal stances on ‘caste’ and to negotiate better justice rather than falling into traps of all kinds of phobias, old and new. Approaches which simply deny that caste still exists, posit that it can just be abolished or claim that it cannot ever be adequately debated are unhelpful and just increase the heat in existing chaotic and largely self-righteous discourses. The article suggests that ancient Indians seem to have known much more about diversity management than we care to admit, while messiness and chaos remain prominent all around us today. This is not idolising a glorious past, but critiquing the present chaos while
searching for justice-conscious remedies in diversity management.

url – http://sar.sagepub.com/content/36/3/299.full.pdf+html
courtesy – Sage

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