The session was organized as part of “Beyond Binaries: Understanding Sexual Identities and Queer Rights Issues in India”, – a Five-Day Immersive Online Certificate Training Course by the Gender Impacts Study Centre (GISC) on behalf of IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute of India on the instance of Pride Month.
The session began with Samriddhi inviting Aroh Akunth, a writer and performer, to discuss anti-caste theories on gender equity. Aroh expressed gratitude for the opportunity, as the session connected him with his professors and provided a platform to share his insights.
Aroh emphasized the importance of understanding caste and gender through an interdisciplinary approach. They believed that the study of inequality should consider both the perspectives of the marginalized and queer communities, as these identities intersect and influence one another. Inequality is complex, compounded, and pervasive across space and time.
Scholarship on Caste and Gender
Rather than delving into traditional theories, Aroh focused on exploring anti-caste theories on gender and the tools employed by activists and scholars. They shared readings by Dhrubajyoti, Akhil Kang, and Borisa, all of whom brought unique perspectives to the discussion of caste and gender.
Dhrubajyoti, a journalist, developed archives documenting the experiences of Dalit trans individuals contesting elections. Despite having different backgrounds and affiliations, these individuals consistently advocated for access to education and sanitation, addressing the needs of both the Dalit and trans communities.
Akhil Kang’s work centred around the sexual practices of Brahmin men. This research was significant because it explored the lives of the upper caste, a group often neglected in anthropological studies. Kang’s ethnographic approach challenged the notion that marginalized communities alone should be the focus of such research.
Borisa, an urban geographer, examined desire and its relationship with public spaces. They explored how certain spaces, such as Dalit Bastis, were often marginalized and lacked adequate facilities. The proximity of privileged areas to these marginalized spaces highlighted the unequal distribution of resources.
Research Methods to be Adopted
Aroh also highlighted the importance of oral histories in understanding the struggles faced by marginalized communities. They referred to the Dalit archives, run by Dalit students, which provided a platform for movement leaders and artists to share their experiences. These narratives shed light on the historical context of the Dalit movement and the challenges they faced.
The historical analysis was another key tool in understanding caste and gender dynamics. Aroh criticized the dismissal of queer history by heterosexual historians, pointing out that religious texts like Manusmriti reinforced patriarchal and heteronormative practices. Drawing connections between Manusmriti and caste-based discrimination, Aroh emphasized the need to examine these texts critically.
Additionally, Aroh introduced the concept of speculation as an intellectual tool to challenge conventional historical narratives. They argued that divorcing historical figures like Ambedkar from their context and their impact on marginalized communities would limit understanding. Speculation encourages questioning whose history is being validated, and challenges established narratives.
As exemplified in Akhil Kang’s work, the cultural analysis provides insights into the upper castes’ psychoanalysis. It explores the connections between their caste identity and sexual practices, shedding light on the complex interplay between caste, gender, and desire. Legal analysis, including the tool of intersectionality developed by black feminists, plays a crucial role in understanding the legal dimensions of caste and gender equity. Aroh highlighted the significance of intersexuality as a legal framework that can inform the fight for equality and justice.
In conclusion, Aroh Akunth’s session on anti-caste theories on gender equity provided a multidimensional perspective on the subject. Combining historical, cultural, and legal analyses sheds light on the complex dynamics of caste and gender and the need for interdisciplinary approaches to address inequality. The session encouraged critical thinking and challenged traditional narratives, providing a platform for marginalized voices to be heard.