Prof Sudipta Kaviraj, Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University, USA delivered an interesting talk on “Dark Genealogies: Ambedkar’s Struggle with Historical Past” under the Distinguished Lecture Series at the University of Hyderabad on 15th April 2019.

Prof. Sudipta Kaviraj who is a specialist in intellectual history and Indian politics works on two fields of intellectual history – Indian social and political thought in the 19th and 20thcenturies and modern Indian literature and cultural production. In his talk Prof. Kaviraj said, “To characterize an author like Ambedkar strictly, we have to discern the defining features of his thinking. It is entirely modern: Ambedkar has a total irreverence towards the antiquity of his society – except Buddhism. He believed there was little valuable, serviceable, or morally defensible in the heritage of ‘Hindu’ thought”.

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“Inside the universe of modern politics, Ambedkar is clearly in favour of the language of liberalism. That is the language of his unmistakable choice: that is the heritage that he draws upon and exalts in his polemics against nationalist doctrines that gave priority to political over social freedom, that is the language that he wields to denounce the practices of caste in Hindu society, the language he uses masterfully in the detailed and constantly shifting contexts of constitutional politics, and the language he deploys with precision and foresight in the great opportunity he gets in shaping the Indian constitution”, added Prof. Kaviraj.

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Further in his lecture Prof. Kaviraj said, “Dr. Ambedkar’s relation with Western liberalism, however, is not quite straightforward. He did more than anyone else to construct a radical form of liberal politics in the context of Indian political life”.

The lecture was attended by students, faculty and staff of the University and many guests from the city and contemporaries of Prof. Kaviraj.

About Prof. Sudipta Kaviraj

Prof. Kaviraj also undertakes research that includes the historical sociology of the Indian state, and some aspects of Western social theory. He received his Ph.D. from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Prior to joining Columbia University, he taught at the Department of Political Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He has also taught Political Science at JNU, and was an Agatha Harrison Fellow at St. Antony’s College, Oxford. He was a member of the Subaltern Studies Collective.

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Among many of his books, Prof. Kaviraj’s linked-trilogy of Indian society and politics, The Imaginary Institution of India, The Enchantment of Democracy and India and The Trajectories of the Indian State (2010) is a very significant contribution in Indian studies. His recent work The Invention of Private Life: Literature and Ideas (2015) remains an inspiring volume for students of literature, sociology and political theory. His other significant works include Civil Society: History and Possibilities co-edited with Sunil Khilnani (2001), Politics in India (edited) (1999), and The Unhappy Consciousness: Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay and the Formation of Nationalist Discourse in India (1995), Perspectives of Capitalism: Marx, Keynes, Schumpeter and Weber co-edited with Krishna Bhardwaj (1989).

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