Rutgers Univ. hosts panel on Indian feminism, caste system

The Rutgers University Working Group on Dalit and Adivasi Research hosted a panel discussion on Dalit feminism and femininity at the Ruth Dill Johnson Crockett Building in New Brunswick, NJ.

The event featured five panelists and students and faculty in attendance. It was sponsored by the Institute for Research on Women, Rutgers Global, the Institute for Women's Leadership, the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies and the South Asian Studies Program, said Julie Rajan, an assistant professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies.

The panel is the first of a two-panel series that aims to draw attention to the distinct experiences of Dalit and Adivasi communities, Rajan said, as well as their advocacy efforts by highlighting the experiences and research of Dalit and Adivasi women and allies.

The panelists included, Evangeline Anderson-Rajakumar, a body theologian and Dalit womanist scholar; Anderson-Rajakumar, representing Dalit women; Manjula Bharathi, a professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai; Jebaroja Singh, a visiting assistant professor at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York; and Thenmozhi Soundararajan, the executive director of Equality Labs.

Dalits, who used to be known as the “untouchables” of India’s caste system, Rajan said, make up 25 percent of India’s population and the majority of India’s slums.

Making their livelihoods by cleaning human waste from streets and public toilets, Dalits have been physically and socially segregated from Hindus of other castes due to misinterpretations of ancient Hindu texts by heterosexual male Brahmins, or members of the highest Hindu caste, she said.

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