The world – of social science and of caste, class and race struggles – has changed significantly since then. Nations are no longer seen as the obvious and unalterable (“natural”) form of political belonging. The world over, race is widely recognized as deriving from racism, not the other way about. In India, caste increasingly functions as a political category more than a sociological one – or at least as strongly. Faith in an international revolutionary working class has fragmented, even as the divide between the topmost and the bottom-most, within and between nations, becomes ominous once more; and large populations are uprooted, exiled and pushed to the wall by war and “development.”
What are the appropriate terms of analysis of these new social hierarchies and divisions? How does the changing valence, and political location, of race, caste and class challenge long-accepted “Western” ideas of race, belonging and nationhood, and long-accepted hopes of social transformation? These are the questions I seek to raise through a presentation of some material relating to changing notions of social solidarity and political mobilization in India and the United States.
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