Ajantha Subramanian, "Meritocracy and Democracy: The Social Life of Caste in India"

APR 09, 2021 | 4:15 PM





April 09, 2021: 4:15 PM




Ph.D. Program in Anthropology


The Ph.D. Program in Anthropology invites you to attend our Spring 2021 Colloquium series. 

Meritocracy and Democracy: The Social Life of Caste in India
Ajantha Subramanian, Harvard University

How does the utopian democratic ideal of meritocracy reproduce historical inequality? My larger project pursues this question through a historical anthropology of engineering education in India. It looks at the operations of caste, the social institution most emblematic of ascriptive hierarchy, within the modern field of engineering education. At the heart of the study are the Indian Institutes of Technology, or IITs, a set of highly coveted engineering colleges that are equally representative of Indian meritocracy and, until recently, of caste exclusivity. In this talk, I hope to show that the politics of meritocracy at the IITs illuminates the social life of caste in contemporary India. Rather than the progressive erasure of ascribed identities in favor of putatively universal ones, what we are witnessing is the rearticulation of caste as an explicit basis for merit and the generation of newly consolidated forms of upper casteness.

Download PDF flyer
This is an online event. Please register online to participate via Zoom.