The 2nd Ajay Gandhi Memorial Lecture:
Wokeness of Caste and the Culture of Untouchability
What has managed to universalize these emotional responses is the intermediary role the internet has taken in communicating the message. The history of caste cannot be written without the impact the internet has managed to create and its growing prowess in mediating the social history of a community.
The lecture will cover the existing power dynamics of caste and its relational dynamics in our society. I examine the diasporic anti-caste activism seen in the past decade. The increasing diasporic activism can be classified as the second phase of the anti-caste movement in the US. The first wave was inaugurated after the 1960s. However, the second wave of the past decade is an important indicator to examine the status of anti-caste activism in Dalit life. The metaphors, allegories and the language of woke culture were also incorporated by the leaders of the second wave of Dalit activism.
This resulted in a clash of cultures among the American and Indian Dalit activists. By examining the woke template of the internet-clad, caste-privileged activism, this talk will assess the future of social activism and the cultural media that has managed to normalize the social template of hierarchy into a supposed common-equal sphere of social media.
Suraj Yengde a scholar on caste and Ambedkar is the 2023 Du Bois Fellow at Harvard University. He has taught at the University of Oxford (2021-22) and has also conducted a research project at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver (2021). He was earlier Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School (2021) and the Shorenstein Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School (2018-20)
He has authored two books: Caste Matters (Penguin, 2019) and The Radical in Amebdkar: Critical Reflections (Allen Lane 2018). Both books have received a number of awards. Caste Matters has been translated into three languages and is being translated into 4 more languages. He has also written in a number of academic journals and given keynote addresses.
He is currently a columnist of The Indian Express. He has a Bachelor of Laws degree in 2008 from the Swami Ramanand Teerth Marathwada University, Nanded, graduating with distinction as the holder of the first rank in the university.. He then obtained a Master of Laws degree in 2012 from Birmingham City University, United Kingdom. Thereafter, Suraj Yengde did his PhD (2015) in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, where he was the first Indian Dalit PhD scholar in South Africa.
Suraj Yengde is currently completing a DPhil from the Faculty of History of the University of Oxford.
Ajay Gandhi was the Founder of Manthan and a pioneer trustee of the Hyderabad Literary Festival. In less than a decade after he founded Manthan with Vikram Mamidipudi, Ajay made Manthan a leading forum for intelligent conversations, first in Hyderabad and then nationally with its online talks. He was a quintessential democrat, open minded, a firm believer in free speech and used his expert organizational skills to embellish every initiative he led.
Ajay Gandhi was a founder-partner of Gandhi and Gandhi, which became a leading Chartered Accountancy in Hyderabad.
He was just 65 when he died on 23 September 2021 after a short illness.