BA Politics and Modern History / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Caste Politics in Twentieth Century India

Unit code HIST31911
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by History
Available as a free choice unit? No

Overview

This course examines the enduring connection between caste and politics in India during the twentieth century. The course starts with an introduction to the history of caste as a concept. This is followed by an analysis of the political implications of caste from the era of British colonialism to the first years of India as an independent country. Particular attention is paid to the rise of popular movements that found in caste, usually thought as system of oppression, a form of political organization that allowed them to challenge hierarchical structures of power.

By analysing a selection of important primary and secondary sources, the course shows the multifarious ways in which colonial and Indian intellectuals thought and transformed the concept of caste to pursue different political objectives. This course also evaluates the way caste may shape and expand our understating of democracy in present day politics, both in India and abroad.

 

Pre/co-requisites

HIST31911 is restricted to History programmes, History joint honours programmes, and Euro Studies (please check your programme regulations for further details).

This module is available only to students on History-owned programmes; Classics and Ancient History programmes; History and American Studies; and Euro Studies programmes.

Aims

- To introduce students to the study of non-Western history, Indian history in particular, both in a colonial and a post-colonial context. 

- Understand the main historical debates around the question of caste in the twentieth century.

- Comment on the different political implications of caste during the struggle for India’s independence.  

- Develop an in-depth historical argument about the connection between caste and democracy in India.

- Analyse and comment on the primary and secondary sources they have studied.

Learning outcomes

- Students should be able to analyse and comment on the primary and secondary sources they have studied.

- Be aware of the history of low-caste political movements in India.

- Understand the main links between colonialism and the emergence of Indian nationalism.

- Understand the links between racial theories and caste practices in India.

- Evaluate the links between identity politics and caste politics.

Syllabus

Indicative seminar topics: 

  1. Understanding the concept of caste
  2. Caste and colonialism: Was caste a colonial invention?
  3. Caste and the nation: What role did caste play at the beginning of the national movement?
  4. Challenging caste hierarchy in politics: The anti-Brahmin movement
  5. Reading week.
  6. The rise of low-caste politics: Phule and Periyar
  7. The emergence of the Untouchable movement: B.R. Ambedkar and M.C. Rajah
  8. Untouchability and the nation: M.K. Gandhi and Ambedkar
  9. Untouchables as political subjects: Congress and the Untouchable vote
  10. Caste after independence I: Reservation and the rise of the OBC’s
  11. Caste after independence II: The Dalit panthers and the Bahujan Samaj Party
  12. Conclusion - Overview

Teaching and learning methods

- 1 x 3-hour Seminar per week + Course Unit Office Hours equivalent to 1-hour per week.

- Seminar reading lists and sourcebooks will be made available on Blackboard, as will links to digitised material and other online source/databases.

- Lecture slides will be uploaded onto Blackboard.

- All Coursework will be submitted and returned via Turnitin.

Knowledge and understanding

- Students should be able to analyse and comment on the primary and secondary sources they have studied.

- Be aware of the history of low-caste political movements in India.

- Understand the main links between colonialism and the emergence of Indian nationalism.

- Understand the links between racial theories and caste practices in India.

- Evaluate the links between identity politics and caste politics.

Intellectual skills

- Comprehension of the main theories related to the practice of caste and untouchability.

- Identify the connection between colonialism and the emergence of caste politics.

- Assess the rise of low-caste politics after India's independence.

- Comprehend the debate regarding positive discrimination in India in connection to caste practices.

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

- Plan and execute independent research using a variety of sources including books, journals, electronic databases, online collections, and archival collections.

- Independently synthesize and organize primary and secondary source material.

- Communicate findings and interpretations in oral and written formats.

- Constructively contribute to large and small group discussions.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

- Present nuanced interpretations via advanced written and oral communication.

- Accomplish independent research projects.

- Work collaboratively as part of a team.

- Critical thinking and analysis.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Critical thinking and analysis
Group/team working
The ability to collaborate in team-work settings
Leadership
Acting autonomously and taking leadership (through independent research, seminar preparation and contribution, assessment activities)
Oral communication
To convey complex ideas via written and verbal communication skills.
Research
Locating, organising and interpreting large quantities of evidence
Written communication
To convey complex ideas via written and verbal communication skills.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 40%
Written assignment (inc essay) 60%

Feedback methods

Oral feedback on group discussion and presentations, formative

Written feedback on coursework submissions via turnitin, and on edam papers in hard copy, summative

Additional one-to-one feedback (during office hour or by making an appointment), formative

 

Recommended reading

Banerjee, Ishita (ed.), Caste in History (Delhi, 2008).

Bayly, Susan.  Caste, Society and Politics in India from the Eighteenth Century to the Modern Age (Cambridge, 1999).

Dirks, Nicholas. Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India (Princeton, 2001).

Gupta, S.K. The Scheduled Castes in Modern Indian politics: Their Emergence as a Political Power (New Delhi, 1985).

Jaffrelot, Christophe, India’s Silent Revolution: The Rise of the Lower Castes in North India (London, 2003).

Jaffrelot, Christophe. Dr. Ambedkar and Untouchability: Analysing and Fighting Caste (Delhi, 2005).

Omvedt, Gail. Understanding Caste: From Buddha to Ambedkar and Beyond (New Delhi, 2011).

Zelliot, Eleanor. Ambedkar’s World: The Making of Babasaheb and the Dalit Movement (New Delhi, 2013). 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 165

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jesus Chairez-Garza Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Assessment Methods

Source Analysis, summative, 1500 words, 20%

Essay or Public History Artefact (e.g. podcast, website, You Tube videos), summative, 2500 words, 40%

Exam, summative, 2 hours, 40%

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