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Civility against Caste

Civility against Caste
Dalit Politics and Citizenship in Western India

First Edition
  • Suryakant Waghmore - Associate Professor and Chairperson, Centre for Social Justice and Governance, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

Other Titles in:
Sociology (General)

December 2013 | 274 pages | SAGE India
Civil society as an analytical concept is increasingly treated with suspicion in the study of politics in postcolonial societies. While engaging with Dalit struggles for civility, this book offers a critique of normative liberal assumptions of civil society and also counters the scholarship that rejects the idea and possibility of civil society in postcolonial societies.

Based on an ethnography of Dalit movements in Maharashtra, this book highlights the centrality of caste in constructing localized forms and processes of civil society. The study marks a shift from perspectives that either emphasize the role of the state in shaping civil society or totally ignore the role of caste in its formation.  As one of the first books on the post-Panther phase of Dalit politics in Maharashtra, this book makes an important contribution. It reopens the debate on the nature and forms of Dalit assertion in the 1990s and looks beyond the ‘impasse’ in Dalit politics.
Foreword Christophe Jaffrelot
Caste and Dalit Politics in the Making of Civil Society
Dalit Movements in the Post-Panther Period: Contextualising the BSP and MHA in Marathwada
Of Peasant Kings and Untouchable Citizens: Caste Violence and Democratisation of Public Spaces
Jameen Aamchya Hakkachi: Politics of Land Rights and Advocacy NGOs
The Imagined “Bahujan”: Caste and Cultural Repertoires of BSP
Beyond Mahar Dominance: The Making of Phule-Ambedkarite Mangs in MHA
Electoral Politics and Dalit Freedoms
Between High Democracy and Low Civility: Why Dalits need a Civil Society?

In Civility against Caste, Suryakant Waghmore offers a refreshingly original interpretation of Dalit politics in India. Based on long-term ethnographic field research, he shows that Dalit struggles essentially revolve around creating everyday spaces of civility where Dalit dignity and citizenship can be respected. Popular democracy in India has not created a more ‘civil society’, Waghmore argues, but has allowed dominant and competing caste groups to entrench their power through force and the ballot. Against this, Dalits insist that classical norms of civility, tolerance and equality be respected. Waghmore’s compelling, sensitive and authoritative ethnographic account takes us to villages and small towns in Marathwada in central India where such struggles for dignity and a life without daily humiliation are fought every day. 

Waghmore’s study—theoretically innovative and deeply empirical—sets a new standard for how to study and interpret Dalit politics in India. This book will be required reading for anyone interested in Dalit politics and in how Indian democracy actually works.

Thomas Blom Hansen
Reliance-Dhirubhai Ambani Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies at Stanford University

Suryakant Waghmore’s Civility against Caste is a brilliant attempt to bring out hitherto much neglected focus on caste and civility. He makes an outstanding effort to illustrate how Dalit politics radically alters the standards of civility and civil society in India and argues that Dalit movements are aimed at producing the spaces for democratic civility. Suryakant through his theoretical move seeks to understand and evaluate Dalit politics in terms of its contribution to the reconstruction of civil society. This volume casts the study of Dalit politics entirely in a new light and no doubt makes a fresh reading on Dalit question in India.

Gopal Guru
Professor, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

The book highlights the political struggles of citizenship by different groups within the general category of “Dalit”.

Economic & Political Weekly, 2 January 2016

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