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CSAS Lecture | Outcaste Bombay and Inter-war Marxism

Juned Shaikh, History Department, UC Santa Cruz
Friday, October 8, 2021
4:30-6:00 PM
Off Campus Location
Marxism arrived in inter-war Bombay under the reality of surveillance and the threat of proscription. Therefore, Marxist ideas, literature, and intellectuals trickled into the city, rather than gushed in, particularly in the first few years after World War I. The Marxist vision of a political and social revolution, that would end class inequality, needed to be translated in order to capture the imagination of intellectuals and the urban poor in the city. In other words, it needed to shed light on industrial capitalism in the city, the condition of workers within it, and provide a vision for overcoming it. Translation necessitated that Marxists address the question of caste too – how would they bring about a socialist revolution in a social formation riven with class and caste hierarchies? Marxists from S. A. Dange to M.N Roy addressed this question. They laid great store in the power of capital to desiccate caste. In their view, Marxists would organize workers, with shriveling caste affinities, into a working class. The working class would then lead the Indian revolution. Therefore, assertions of caste identity by the anti-Brahmin and the Dalit movements, and their attraction among workers, invited Marxist opprobrium and allegations of being reactionary, fascists, and petit bourgeois. This talk considers the politics of translating Marxism. Translation, here operates in two registers, one, as the interpretation of a system of ideas and concepts and the other as the language deployed to render these concepts from German via English into Marathi. Caste was important to both these translations.

Juned Shaikh is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the author of Outcaste Bombay: City Making and the Politics of the Poor, published recently by the University of Washington Press and in India by Orient Blackswan. He will be a visiting research fellow of the Shelby Davis Center at Princeton University during the next academic year. His new work will be on the life and times of Gangadhar Adhikari, a Bombay Marxist. He was the recipient of the Dean’s medal for the Social Sciences as a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Please register in advance for this zoom webinar here:

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us. Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
Building: Off Campus Location
Location: Virtual
Event Type: Livestream / Virtual
Tags: Asia, History, India
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for South Asian Studies, International Institute, Asian Languages and Cultures