Historicizing Race and Caste: Africanist Perspectives in an India-Centric Field
Shobana Shankar, Stony Brook University
Thursday, May 11, 2023
Steele 006 and virtual
This event will also be livestreamed. Register at https://dartgo.org/historicizingraceandcaste.
This event is sponsored by the Department of History, the Asian Societies, Cultures, and Languages Program, and the Department of African and African American Studies at Dartmouth.
Shobana Shankar is currently a fellow in the African Program at the Wilson International Center for Scholars, where she is working on her next book on informal economies between Nigeria and India; she is Professor of African and global history at the State University of New York-Stony Brook. Her research focuses on colonial and postcolonial West Africa and Africa-South Asia relations, especially in religion, higher education, and scientific development. Her most recent book, An Uneasy Embrace: Africa, India and the Spectre of Race (2021) is the first history of how race and racialization have brought Africans and Indians together, yet also driven them apart; it was shortlisted as a finalist for the P. Sterling Stuckey Prize of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora and the International Studies Association's Global Development Section Book Award. She is also author of Who Shall Enter Paradise? Christian Origins in Muslim Northern Nigeria, c.1890-1975 (Ohio U. Press) and co-editor of two collections of international research on religious politics. She has received fellowships from the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, Goethe University in Frankfurt, Fulbright, Wenner-Gren Foundation, the American Historical Association, and others. She writes for wider audiences on topics such as lessons for the U.S. on Nigeria's experience with vaccine hesitancy and eugenics at the Mississippi State Penitentiary.
The comparative study of race and caste—as well as examination of their intersection as persistent and mobile forms of discrimination and inequality—has generated popular and scholarly resistance. Yet since the early 20th century, sociologists and historians, particularly those concerned with racial inequality in the U.S., have not shied away. This subject has gained intense interest once again, with publications such as Isabel Wilkerson's Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents and episodes of violence against Africans in India and civil rights activism to publicize and end Indian-origin caste discrimination in North America. This presentation illuminates African history and politics of difference (often made invisible by focus on African diasporas in the Americas) recognizing that centuries of African-Asian-European encounter have shaped a "race-caste crucible," elements of which have been transformed but not completely erased by modern legal, economic, and social reforms.