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Sharika Thiranagama - South Asia Studies Colloquium
Sharika Thiranagama - South Asia Studies Colloquium
WhenThursday, Nov. 7, 2019, 3:30 – 5 p.m.
Campus locationDenny Hall (DEN)
Campus room313
Event typesLectures/Seminars
Event sponsorsSouth Asia Center, University of Washington

Civility, Respect and Recognition: Caste and Ethnicity in South Asia

Sharika Thiranagama (Stanford)
South Asia Studies Colloquium

Questions of respect and recognition are critical to both a long history of hierarchically segmented co-existence, both in terms of caste and ethnicity in South Asia, as well as the incendiary centers of democratic mobilization, transformation and aspiration. In my talk, I move from post war Sri Lanka to rural Kerala, to discuss how ordinary people live together whilst navigating recent transformations due to war and economic mobilization but within long standing hierarchies. I will discuss the differentiated civility of manners that maintains dense relations of caste, and the civility of distance that newly marks ethnic relations, first through how Tamils and Muslims live together after ethnic cleansing and the end of the war in Sri Lanka, as well as the fractures within Tamil communities around unacknowledged caste differences. I suggest that hierarchical forms of caste and class within Sri Lankan Tamil and Muslim society have been challenged by the kinds of egalitarian leveling effects of ethnic mobilization and solidarity. Yet, at the same time, the promise of egalitarian sociality emerges from within already deeply hierarchical worlds. Secondly, I move to new fieldwork on Kerala to briefly discuss how Dalit agricultural laborers navigate the possibility of new forms of neighborliness built on deep histories of humiliation, subordination and segregation with laborers of other castes and their landlords in rural Kerala. As a whole, the talk reflects upon ordinary struggles to make respect, once a sign of deference, into something that recognizes one’s humanity.

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