Online Meeting on ‘Rethinking Social Justice’

The Dravidian Professionals Forum organized a meeting on 17 March 2021 to discuss the volume Rethinking Social Justice (Orient BlackSwan 2020). According to the publisher’s website Rethinking Social Justice, co-edited by S. Anandhi, Karthick Ram Manoharan, M. Vijayabaskar and A. Kalaiyarasan, offers a more transdisciplinary approach to envisioning a just society that encompasses the intersecting issues of caste, capital, nationalism, gender, region, urban planning and visual representation.

Anandhi, Vijayabaskar and Karthick spoke at the event which largely involved a politically informed activist audience. Anandhi spoke about the key ideas behind and the current significance of the volume. She highlighted the academic interventions of M.S.S. Pandian to whom the book was a homage and whose works were critically engaged and built upon by the contributors to the volume. Speaking about her own chapter and ongoing work, she stressed the need to have more critical attention to the politics of gender in the Dravidian movement.

Vijayabaskar spoke about the political economy under the successive Dravidian parties, highlighting the inclusive model of growth and responding to certain general criticisms of the Dravidian rule. He noted how patterns of growth, industrialization, land reforms, public distribution system, and welfare schemes contributed to the gradual empowerment of marginalized sections of the population. The Dravidian Model, a book authored by Kalaiyarasan and Vijayabaskar, that deals with these topics in greater detail will be published by Cambridge University Press this year.

Based on his ongoing research, Karthick spoke about contributions of the Dravidian Movement and Periyar to the democratic culture and the pluralist ethos of Tamil Nadu’s politics. He noted how at a time of ethnic and religious fundamentalism, the Periyarist legacy eschewed all forms of chauvinism and imagined an idea of ‘Dravidian’ based on shared solidarity than ethnic, religious or caste markers. He used the Laclauian concept of ‘floating signifier’ to explain how ‘Dravidian’ was conceived as an inclusive identity. 

The presentations were bilingual (Tamil and English) and in a manner that was easily accessible to a non-specialist audience. An interactive session followed the presentations. There was an engaged discussion on how marginalized groups like the Dalits can lay claim to the Dravidian movement, the challenge of Tamil nationalism in a time of neo-liberalism, and other issues related to contemporary Tamil politics.

The recording of the event is available on Facebook and has been seen by over 1000 viewers as on 19 March 2021.

Confronting Caste: Panel Discussion at KCL

Panelists and Titles:

Karthick Ram Manoharan (University of Wolverhampton): The Black Shirt Challenge: Periyar contra Aryanism.

Meena Dhanda (University of Wolverhampton): The Concurrence of Anti-racism and Anti-casteism.

Hugo Gorringe (University of Edinburgh): Changing Caste Cultures.

The panel was moderated by Srilata Sircar and Vignesh Rajahmani.

Talk on ‘Radical Freedom: Periyar and Gender’, University of Wolverhampton

Dr. Karthick Ram Manoharan spoke about Radical Freedom: Periyar and Gender at the CTTR public lecture hosted by Prof. Meena Dhanda on 18 February 2021. This event was hosted online by the University of Wolverhampton research group Language Power and Society. This talk looked at South Indian social reformer and anti-caste radical Periyar E.V. Ramasamy’s approach to the women’s question. Periyar was not just an advocate of social and economic equality between the sexes but espoused a radical concept of sexual freedom for women, which is central to his concept of liberty as such. While the anti-colonialists of his period defended native traditions and customs, Periyar welcomed modernity and saw it laden with possibilities for the emancipation of women. Likewise, where other social reformers addressed the women’s question within the ambit of the nation and/or the family, Periyar saw both nation and family as institutions that limited the liberties of women. The talk explored Periyar’s booklet Women Enslaved in detail and engaged with lesser known, new primary material of Periyar on the women’s question, concluding with a discussion of his perspective of the West.

The talk was attended by 63 viewers from 12 countries.

Video to the lecture below

Dr. Karthick Ram Manoharan’s lecture on “Radical Freedom: Periyar and Gender.”