(Photo by Davesh Soneji)

Caste and Race: Past and Present is a two-year initiative instituted by the Department of South Asia Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. This initiative is meant to lay the foundation for a more enduring curricular and faculty engagement with caste and race for South Asia at Penn. The department seeks to respond to the ongoing crisis in the US over police brutality and racialized violence by proposing a teaching initiative on cross-cultural and comparative approaches to forms of ascriptive discrimination and the struggles against it. The initiative will focus on comparative histories of the experience of caste and race in America and South Asia, focusing on modes of discrimination, the interplay of race and caste with the institutions of civil society and the state, cultural appropriations, and forms of redress and resistance. There is now a critical mass of scholarship on different dimensions of comparisons between caste and race both within the US and between the US and South Asia as well as a growing number of activist organizations and intellectuals building bridges of understanding between younger generations of anti-caste activists in India and anti-racist and BLM activists in the US. The initiative will help build greater awareness, through comparative and connected approaches, of the dynamics of structural oppression and everyday discrimination.