AAS Annual Meeting

South Asia Session 153

[ South Asia Sessions, Table of Contents | Panels by World Area Main Menu ]

Session 153: Roundtable: African American and Dalit Scholars Compare Their Respective Liberation Struggles -supported by the Holdeen India Fund

Organizer: Kevin D. Brown, Indiana University, USA

Discussants: Suresh Mane, University of Mumbai, India; Varsha Vijay Khandare, Independent Scholar, India; Kevin D. Brown, Indiana University, USA; Lalit Khandare, Indiana University, USA; Martin Macwan, Independent Scholar, India; Manjula Pradeep, Independent Scholar, India

African-Americans in the U.S. and Dalits in India have both suffered from oppression and discrimination based upon a hereditary trait in their respective countries. Both groups make up similar percentages of their societies’ population. However, the oppression of African-Americans occurs in a relatively new civilization dedicated to the respect for individual liberty. Dalit oppression occurs in the context of one of humanities oldest civilization that is far more respectful of traditional roles and occupations than U.S. society. The 1950s proved to be a time of monumental change for both groups. De jure segregation and conscious racial discrimination by government were declared unconstitutional in the United States. The ratification of the Indian Constitution in 1950 marked a watershed moment for Dalit legal rights. Indian society formally recognized the need to address the historic oppression of many groups in its constitution, including the Dalits. Despite the impressive performance by a number of high profile black individuals, as a group, blacks continue to lag far behind non-Hispanic whites on virtually all significant socio-economic measures. In the face of over 60 years of constitutional protection, recent sociological studies indicate that the idea of inherent pollution of Dalits continues to set them apart for continued discrimination and oppression in India. While many scholars in the past compared and contrasted African-Americans with Dalits, it is exceedingly rare to see such comparisons done by both African-American and Dalit Scholars. This panel will involve African-American scholars familiar with Dalit oppression in India and Dalit scholars familiar with African-American oppression in the United States discussing the lessons each have learned about their own group’s oppression and liberation struggle through comparing and contrasting their respective group’s situations with that of the other group.