Social Distancing and the Contours of Caste

Nisha Dedhwal

Nisha DedhwalThe term ‘Social Distancing’ held/holds/shall hold different meanings in the Indian past, present and future. The term being social in nature holds the potential to be approached distinctly by people belonging to different socio-economic-caste-gender-cultural backgrounds. Messages from different brands, celebrities endorsing ‘Social Distancing’ are being widely shared as part of an awareness campaign by people through their display pictures on WhatsApp, Facebook statuses, Instagram stories, hoardings, advertisements and in many other ways on social media, across the world. The creative, adventurous yet political world of advertisements is successfully spreading awareness about the need for socially distancing from each other in order to fight the pandemic.

I personally couldn’t post the message of ‘Social Distancing’ on my WhatsApp display picture, simply because I perceived it differently. This difference in perceived meaning for the term might be a result of the pernicious dichotomy discussed by Gopal Guru in his edited book ‘The Cracked Mirror’--the lack of egalitarian conditions in social science practice in the country. The blind adoption of the term ‘Social Distancing’ denying its contextual roots in Indian history, comes as part and parcel of the analogy that Indian social science represents: “a pernicious divide between theoretical Brahmins and Empirical Shudras”( Guru,2012).


`Raqs Media Collective’: The caste pursuit of hyper cool


Umar Nizar

umarQuality vs energy is the major thesis of the Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn who held daily workshops at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2018. The 'meritocratic' pretensions of third world elite are brutally dispelled by his radical stance. It is ironical that there are 'radical' collectives foisting rotten idealism, in the guise of artistic practice. The curatorial oeuvre of the Raqs Media Collective is conspicuous in that it seldom tackles caste head on.

A bit like Slavoj Žižek's quip on Habermas, that if you read the entire oeuvre of this Teutonic messiah of left wing consensus, one would never discover that there were two Germanys in the recent past-the Eastern German Democratic Republic (GDR) andthe Western Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). Similarly, the oeuvre of the Raqs group cleverly casts a shroud over the Indic reality of caste. This doesn't mean that one has to take an orientalist stance a la Louis Dumont and claim that everything to do with India has to begin and end with the Homo Hierarchicus, and the caste structure. But ignorance cannot be cringeworthy bliss-whether artistic, curatorial or financial.


Eklavya and Karna: An Understanding of Discrimination against Marginalised in Indian Education System


rituMahabharata and Ramayana are considered as the biggest epics (Mahakavya) of India. These are back in popular discussion with the reruns of their TV serials on Doordarshan amid the Covid-19 crisis. Those who have access to television are watching the serials with great interest as shown by the rising TRPs of Doordarshan.

Coming to Mahabharata, the authorship of this great epic is accredited to Ved Vyasa. Mahabharata is present in written and oral forms and has many versions, from the perspectives of different regions, castes and genders. It is popularly said that the Mahabharata touches every aspect of human life; that it has thrown light on every kind of possible human relationship, including the teacher-pupil relationship. Although the main characters of Mahabharata are Pandavas, Kauravas, Bhishma, Shakuni, Kunti, and Drona, but the minor characters like Eklavya and Karna have also created a huge impact. There are multiple anecdotes circulated on Arjuna's bravery, Bhishma's sacrifice and Drona's knowledge but Karna's archery skills and Eklavya's devotion towards his teacher are side-lined.


Government healthcare workers and migrants: Their cries for basic necessities are no different


Dr Manisha Bangar

manisha bangarIt wasn't so long ago that the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, called for a focused effort to make India a $5 trillion economy. However, it doesn't surprise anyone anymore that the Indian government's definition of the economy doesn't include the welfare of sectors like healthcare and education, or elevating the rural economy or spending on the poor, marginalized population.

The failure of the Indian healthcare system in combating the current global pandemic is the result of continually ignoring the needs of this sector. The Indian Prime Minister himself asked the citizens to applaud the healthcare workers for their contribution, but completely ignored their very basic demand of personal protective kits.


‘Episteme’ based on Experience: Review of "The Cracked Mirror" by Gopal Guru and Sundar Sarukkai

Bhawesh Pant

‘Lived experience’ is growing in popular appeal (Hoerger, 2016). The reasons for this upsurge are ‘emergence of the politics of identity’ (pg.1) and the theoretical failing of different disciplines, in grasping the essence of varied marginalities. The observation pertaining to lived experience is certainly not new, the celebrated traditions like Phenomenology and Feminist Stand Point theory deal with the element of ‘lived experiences’. But in these traditions, we try to validate and categorize the diverse experiences into a few ‘universal’ categories. And these categories are cognitive products, either curated or influenced by preeminent cultures and communities. Thus a thoughtful questioning has to be carried down on the whole ‘theory doing.’ Mere suspicion will not work, one should also strive to develop an ‘egalitarian theory doing.’

Pic cracked mirror

"The Cracked Mirror: An Indian Debate on Experience and Theory" by Gopal Guru and Sundar Sarukkai, New Delhi: Oxford University Press. 2012


To speak of Migrant workers is to speak of Politics today

Vishal Verma

vishal VThe politics in India which has continuously been called ‘democractic’ has sustained for more than 70 years. With riots and uprisings[i] having  been an  intrinsic part of it. Where the former,  has always been advantageous for Indian democracy to consolidate its power through the mediation of an institutionally    centralised state form. The latter, usually, radically shakes the established structures of power called State  through an assertion of the strength of people, who were kept at absence.  Thereby demonstrating a strength of their absence[ii].

Today, during the Corona pandemic, an inexistent[iii]of the world, called the ‘Migrant worker’ has started to exist in this same world with maximum inten­sity. Let’s see a picture of it. So much has already been written about the Coronavirus epidemic, as a non-specialist observer with very limited access and interest in data, I have nothing to add about the epidemic's origin, characteristics and ideology. But perhaps, I would be interested in questioning the logic of the State to deal with the crisis. Here, we must not forget that a virus called COVID-19 has shaken the world, not solely because of its highly contagious parasitic nature but due to the failure of the logic of the State itself, which can be exposed in three stages[iv].


India’s Coronavirus and Lockdown Alienation

Mohd Owais Saleem

mohammed owais saleemHas lockdown led the marginalized or many other groups of India to severe alienation during COVID-19? Is it affecting the lives of groups and individuals? Being a student of sociology, this question always strikes me hard. Having been born and brought up in Delhi, it has been observed that the lives of people living in the city are an obvious and classic case of “social alienation.” They work hard to meet their basic needs and their never-ending desires have made them a stranger to the person living in their neighbourhood. Hence, “social alienation” — a condition in social relationships is reflected by a low degree of integration or common values, and a high degree of distance or isolation between individuals or between an individual and a group of people in a community or work environment as defined by many classic sociologists.

Marx’s theory of Alienation is articulated most clearly in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 and The German Ideology of 1846, where he defined “Human Alienation” as the third element of Alienation. So in a society like Delhi, no one knows what others go through in their day-to-day life; as a result, all families depend on themselves for survival. Already having this type of alienation, Delhi is now also facing “lockdown alienation.” There are so many people who work in the informal sector and earn less to survive. Likewise, there are so many migrant laborers who work on a daily wage basis, and their source of income is only their labor which they can sell and earn to survive.


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