Brahmanizing Modern India: Reform and upper-caste dynamics of discipline and difference in twentieth-century Maharashtra
Dr. Paik's talk will analyze various processes and politics through which upper-caste Marathi elites debated social and moral reform to modernize public life and public morality for creating a new India in the twentieth century. Drawing upon popular Marathi magazines and newspapers, she will demonstrate that to govern themselves middle-class women and men constituted a new order and Marathi social imaginary, by creating new differentiations and reinforcing inequalities of “high” and “low” communities and cultures. They used every opportunity to protect and consolidate their savarna inherited privilege by building on their caste and cultural capital. To do so, they first tied kulin [respectable] women’s sexual purity to the “modern” status of the Indian nation and produced mutually exclusive categories of “pure” “wife” and “impure” “prostitute.” In so doing, they joined the British to collapse multiple “non-wife” categories such as Murali, Kunbini, Basavi, Jogtini, Veshya, Courtesan, and Concubine to constitute the “Prostitute.” Secondly, they attacked supposedly vulgar festivals, behaviors, lower-caste dance forms and song, and further cemented caste distinctions. These savarna strategies regulated boundaries between people, further stigmatized Dalits and other lower castes, and brahmanized Marathi society.
Shailaja Paik is Associate Professor of History, University of Cincinnati and the author of Dalit Women's Education in Modern India: Double Discrimination (London and New York: Routledge, 2014).
Her first book examines the nexus between caste, class, gender, and state pedagogical practices among Dalit ("Untouchable") women in urban India. Paik’s current research is funded by the American Council of Learned Societies Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship and the National Endowment for the Humanities-American Institute of Indian Studies Senior Fellowship.
Her second book project focuses on the politics of caste, class, gender, sexuality, and popular culture in modern Maharashtra. Paik has published several articles on a variety of themes, including the politics of naming, Dalit and African American women, Dalit women’s education, and new Dalit womanhood in colonial India, in prestigious international journals. Her research has been funded by Yale University, Emory University, the Ford Foundation, Warwick University, Charles Wallace India Trust, and the Indian Council of Social Sciences and Research, among others. Her scholarship and research interests are concerned with contributing to and furthering the dialogue in human rights, anti-colonial struggles, transnational women’s history, women-of-color feminisms, and particularly on gendering caste, and subaltern history. Paik recently co-organized the "Fifth International Conference on the Unfinished Legacy of Dr. Ambedkar" at the New School, October 2019.