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School of Law

Identity Politics in India

Date: 27 April 2017

This lecture was hosted by the GLOCUL: Centre for Culture and Law as part of the Asian Thinkers Lecture Series at the School of Law, Queen Mary University of London. The lecture discusses Identity Politics in India with Professor Makarand R. Paranjape.

This event is cosponsored by the Indic Academy.



Whether one examines the output of the media, intelligentsia, universities, students, the legal system or politicians, identity politics in India is ubiquitous. It permeates discussion of societal problems to the extent that one appears unable to approach, let alone, solve them without first invoking identity questions, chiefly around caste, religion, and gender. In turn, such invocations block proper identification of the issues at stake. Problem formulation and problem solving remain, at best, superficial and, at worst, lead to the deepening of crises.

To what extent is the present reliance on identity politics a lingering effect of the colonial period? To what extent does it connect to the global spread of identity politics? In what ways does identity politics in India take a specific form? What can be done about the quagmire into which India appears to have got itself and what role can intellectuals play in this process? Can drawing on India’s traditions help offer an alternative perspective on questions of identity, thereby also leading to an alternative politics and praxis? This presentation hopes to address such questions and learn from audience responses to them.

About the Speaker

With over 40 books and 175 academic papers to his name, Makarand R. Paranjape is Professor of English, Centre for English Studies, School of Language, Literature, and Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was educated at St. Stephen’s College and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (USA), where he earned his Masters and Doctorate. Among his recent books are Cultural Politics in Modern India (Routledge, 2016), The Death and Afterlife of Mahatma Gandhi (Penguin Random HouseRoutledge, 2015), and Making India: Colonialism, National Culture, and the Afterlife of Indian English Authority (Springer, 2013).

Apart from books on criticism, Makarand has published six poetry collections and works of fiction (two novels and a collection of short stories). Among his latest creative writing publications are: Transit Passenger/Passageiro em Transito (Humanitas, 2016), and the novel, Body Offering (New Delhi: Rupa, 2013). His edited books include Swami Vivekananada: A Contemporary Reader (Routledge, 2015), and Healing Across Boundaries: Biomedicine and Alternative Therapeutics (Routledge, 2015).

Professor Paranjape has been the Inaugural DAAD Global South Visiting Fellow and Erich Auerbach Visiting Professor in World Literature, University of Tuebingen, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, Inaugural ICCR Chair in Indian Studies, South Asian Studies Programme, National University of Singapore, CAPES Visiting Professor, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Shivdasani Visiting Fellow, Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, University of Oxford. He is also a columnist for Swarajya, DNA, and Mail Today.

Chair: Dr Prakash Shah, Reader in Culture and Law, Department of Law, QMUL.

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