Power, Culture and Marginality in India

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSLS2HS0034

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr. Shailaja Menon and Dr Dharitri Narzary

Email of course coordinator: shailaja[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: only for 3rd Semester MA History Students but open to other PG students from any semester

Aim: The course modules will try to reflect on historical processes that play an important role in marginalizing people or community, and how inadvertently the very processes generate cultural and political consciousness in the margins. Power cannot be reduced to just the exercise of political authority but is also reflective of social sanctions and sanctities. In its dispersal, power leads to the formations of multiple marginalities of sex, gender, class and caste. History has witnessed numerous revolutions and counter-revolutions which has lead to a critique of the meta-narratives of history. This course aims to question the paradigm of “Othering” and dissect the politics of cultural imperialism. In doing so it would be pertinent to understand how, in the first place, the ‘other’ is created and how its relation to the larger society is shaped in the process. The idea is to highlight the complex process of ‘acculturation and assimilation’ that leads to determining power equation between the dominant and the ‘other’. The intent is to enable students to develop critical perspectives on the ways in which cultural differentiation and ethnic formulations have been used to maintain ‘power’ and justify inequalities and injustices. The themes chosen for this section involve minorities; religious, linguistic, sexual, and physically disadvantaged, deprivation and exclusion arising out of caste/tribe based hierarchies.

Course Outcomes: Upon successful completion, the course will:

  1. Help students to historically locate and analyse issues of marginality and power relations in our society
  2. Help reflect on intersectionality between various identities of caste, religion, gender, linguistic etc
  3. Expose students through the aid of literature, oral narratives, audio-visual media to various archives, to study and debate on power and marginality.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

  • Understanding the meaning of ‘caste’, ‘gender’ and ‘tribe’ as a social group, of culture and cultural ideologies. Power as represented through cultural practices including religious philosophy. The notion of cultural superiority and creating space for alternative discourses
  • Creating the ‘Other’: The notion of a ‘periphery’ created through the discourse of power. Does the periphery only include geographical inaccessibility? This section will also investigate the process of internal colonization that leads to the creation of peripheries.
  • Historicizing Resistances: A brief enunciation of the resistances to the notions of cultural imperialism. The readings would comprise of autobiographical narratives comprising caste, gender and tribal themes which interlink issues of power and marginality.
  • Post-independence scenario of reversing the process of marginality and resurrection of ethnic/ cultural practices to assert power by the marginalized.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • 2 unit based take home assignments of 30% each
  • End semester exam- 40%

Reading List:

  • Virginius Xaxa, ‘Transformation of Tribes in India: Terms of Discourse’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 34, No. 24, 1999.
  • Virginius Xaxa, ‘Tribes as Indigenous People of India’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 34, No.51, 1999.
  • P.N. Luthra, ‘North-east Frontier Question in Assam’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 27, No. 20/21, 1992. Agency Tribes: Impact of Ahom and British Policy’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol.6, No. 23, 1971.
  • K.N. Panikkar, Colonialism, Culture and Resistance, OUP, Delhi, 2007
  • Charles Taylor (ed.), Multiculturalism, Princeton Univ. Press, 1992
  • J.E. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism Since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality, Cambridge University Press, 1992.
  • Sir Edward Gait, A History of Assam, Surjeet Publications (Third Indian Reprint), 2006.
  • Rev. Sidney Endle, The Kacharis, Cosmo Publications, Delhi, 1975
  • Suniti Kumar Chatterji, Kirata-Jana-Krti: The Indo-Mongoloids - Their Contribution to the History and Culture of India, The Asiatic Society, 1974
  • Charan Narzary, Dream for Udayachal and the History of the Plains Tribal Council of Assam (PTCA, 1967-93), N.L. Publications, Guwahati, 2011
  • Yasmin Saikia, Fragmented Memories: Struggling to be Tai-ahom in India, Duke University Press, 2004.
  • B.G. Verghese, India’s Northeast Resurgent: Ethnicity, Insurgency, Governance, Development, Konark Publishers, Delhi, 2002 (Third edition).
  • Kancha Illiah: Why I am Not a Hindu: A Sudra critique of Hindutva philosophy, culture and political economy(Calcutta: Samya, 1996)
  • Kancha Illiah: Post Hindu India, Sage 2010
  • Amartya Sen: Development as Freedom, OUP, 1999
  • Foucault: The History of Sexuality, (3 Volumes), London, Penguin
  • Meera Radhakrishan: Dishonoured by History, Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 2001
  • Badri Narayan: The Emergence of the Dalit Public in North India, OUP 2011
  • Maria Ceoti: Retro Modern India: Routledge, 2010
  • Kalpana Kannabiran: The Violence of Normal Times
  • Subaltern Studies, Vol XI
  • Braj Ranjan Mani Debrahmanising History:Dominance and Resistance in Indian Society. Manohar 2006
  • Sudesh Vaid and Kumkum Sangari, (ed) Recasting Women: Essays in Colonial History, Rutgers, 1990
  • Geeta, V & Rajadurai towards a Non-Brahmin Millennium: From Iyothee Thass to Periyar. Calcutta: Samya.1998
  • Uma Chakravarti, Everyday Lives, Everyday Histories, 2006
  • Rajeshwari Sunder Rajan, (ed) Signposts: Gender Issues in Post Independence India, Kali for Women, 1999.

ADDITIONAL REFERENCE: Chapters from Books and articles, both soft and hard copies will be provided in class apart from audio-visual material.