The Politics of Recognition and Beyond: The Uses of History by Labouring Caste Communities in Modern India
1 January 2019 – 30 June 2019
During my 6-month long fellowship, I worked on the caste history books of the labouring communities such as of weavers and tailors. I examined two texts written in Hindi—Genealogies of Váyakvanshí Tailors (1918) by Mahashay Bholanath from Badaun (Uttar Pradesh) and ‘The History of the Weaver Caste (undated)’ by Lalaji Lal from Munger (Bihar). I found these texts at the British Library, London. I located these two primary texts in the broader literature on caste-histories of lower-castes and Dalits. In particular, I engaged with the writings of Ramnarayan Rawat, William Pinch, Dipesh Chakraborty. I also looked at the caste ethnographies of colonial officials William Crooke and J.C. Nesfield. Their works provide a fascinating glimpse into the social, economic and cultural world of the concerned castes.
Arun Kumar is a historian of modern South Asia with an interest in social, economic, and labour history. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Merian Tagore International Centre for Advanced Studies (ICAS:MP), New Delhi. Before joining the ICAS, Kumar was a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies, Linnaeus University in Sweden and a global history fellow at the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam. He received his PhD in modern South Asian history from the Centre for Modern Indian Studies, Goettingen University. Kumar’s doctoral thesis was awarded the Outstanding Dissertation Prize of the German Historical Institute London, 2018. Kumar has also been honoured with the Lala Ram Mohan Prize of the Delhi University for his top academic performance in history.