Neoliberal Indian State as Caste Power

Authors: Waquar Ahmed*, University of North Texas
Topics: Social Geography, Political Geography, Social Theory
Keywords: State theory, neoliberalism, India, caste, social engineering, affirmative action
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Maryland C, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper examines the neoliberal Indian state as elite caste power facilitating the erosion of welfare amongst subaltern castes. It examines how post-1991, economic liberalization in India has accentuated upper-caste power in multiple forms, even as casteism seems to have declined. First, the focus will be on the affirmative actions and reservations debate, its implications for inter-caste relations and how the state legitimizes relevant policies and practices even as it represents divided caste interests, and facilitates the accentuation of upper-caste power. Focus will also be on the formal private, particularly corporate sector, that has shunned affirmative action or reservation policies. Second, this paper will examine the process/practices of ‘social-engineering’ promoted by social, cultural and political coalitions of the upper-caste Hindus that have facilitated blunting of welfare and several socio-political movements of Dalits. Additionally, the process of co-option of young Dalits into militant Hindutva, and their translation into vote-bank politics will be examined. These will highlight how caste contestations are intrinsic to the very nature of the Indian state, and how these contestations are mitigated without ensuring social justice for the historically exploited and marginalized lower caste population.

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