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CANCELED - Dr. Ambedkar and the 'Prostitute' - Shailaja Paik
CANCELED - Dr. Ambedkar and the 'Prostitute' - Shailaja Paik
WhenThursday, Mar. 12, 2020, 3:30 – 5 p.m.
Campus locationThomson Hall (THO)
Campus room317
Event typesLectures/Seminars
Event sponsorsSouth Asia Center…


Dr. Ambedkar and the 'Prostitute'

Paradoxes, Predicaments, and Possibilities for Dalit Women
Lecture by Shailaja Paik (University of Cincinnati)

Dalits’ (“Untouchables”) most democratic and productive politics relentlessly returns to questions of graded caste violence, changing sociality and sexuality, and “inclusion/exclusion” in the larger Indian body politic, thus producing a new matrix and mode of power within the category of the human itself. For Dalits, manuski (dignified humanity) was intimately tied to interlocking technologies of the history of caste violence, gender politics, and anti-caste thought. Respectable Dalit women were central to the struggle for annihilating caste and making manuski in a colonial context.

Shailaja Paik’s talk deploys Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s under-examined speeches and fragmentary evidence in vernacular Marathi from 1916-1956 to examine how and why the Mahar “Prostitute” emerged as a contradiction and embarrassment to his concept of manuski and moral strategy of dharmantar (religious conversion, here out of Hinduism) in the 1930s. Although Ambedkar sought to liberate the Prostitute from caste servitude and stigmatized labor to carve out her personhood, paradoxically, he also depicted her as a blot worthy of blame. As a result, he invested the Prostitute with a heavy burden, holding her responsible for both the emancipation of women and the Dalit samaj as a whole. Moreover, he created dichotomies between different women. These paradoxes presented predicaments as well as possibilities to different Dalit women.

Shailaja Paik is Associate Professor of History, University of Cincinnati and the author of Dalit Women's Education in Modern India: Double Discrimination (London and New York: Routledge, 2014).

Her first book examines the nexus between caste, class, gender, and state pedagogical practices among Dalit ("Untouchable") women in urban India. Paik’s current research is funded by the American Council of Learned Societies Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship and the National Endowment for the Humanities-American Institute of Indian Studies Senior Fellowship.

Her second book project focuses on the politics of caste, class, gender, sexuality, and popular culture in modern Maharashtra. Paik has published several articles on a variety of themes, including the politics of naming, Dalit and African American women, Dalit women’s education, and new Dalit womanhood in colonial India, in prestigious international journals. Her research has been funded by Yale University, Emory University, the Ford Foundation, Warwick University, Charles Wallace India Trust, and the Indian Council of Social Sciences and Research, among others. Her scholarship and research interests are concerned with contributing to and furthering the dialogue in human rights, anti-colonial struggles, transnational women’s history, women-of-color feminisms, and particularly on gendering caste, and subaltern history. Paik recently co-organized the "Fifth International Conference on the Unfinished Legacy of Dr. Ambedkar" at the New School, October 2019.

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