Association of Black Anthropologists
Oral Presentation Session
In the 1930s, scholars of race such as Oliver Cox and Lloyd Warner attempted to use caste as an analytic to engage race in the United States. Despite these early conversations and significant exchanges between caste and race that have established scholarly and political affinities, race is overwhelmingly understood as a portable, universal principle of social stratification in distinction to caste seen as a phenomenon peculiar to Indian social hierarchy. In this paper, I show how anthropology remains tethered to the view that caste is uniquely Indian and racialization in the global North is historically paradigmatic. To do so, I first discuss the circulation of my own research about how adivasi authenticity can become exclusionary of Dalit claims in India, cast as an Indian exception by editors of anthropology journals, rather than as potentially illuminating how indigeneity can become productive of anti-blackness in the United States. Second, I discuss how my attempts at teaching caste in the American classroom often resort to establishing simple equivalencies between caste and race rather than delving into the particular complications of caste as a modern phenomenon, thereby privileging the paradigmatic precedence of race by explicating caste as a project of racialization rather than race as a project of casteism.