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Racism without Races: Reflections on Racialization and Racial Projects

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Abstract

‘The metaphor of race is a dangerous weapon whether it is used for asserting white supremacy or for making demands on behalf of the disadvantaged groups...Treating caste as a form of race is politically mischievous; what is worse, it is scientifically nonsensical’. Andre Beteille (2004: 52)

‘…what is in fact “scientifically nonsensical” is Professor Beteille’s misunderstanding of “race”. What is mischievous is his insistence that India’s system of ascribed system of social inequality should be exempted from the provisions of a UN Convention whose sole purpose is the extension of human rights to include freedom from all forms of discrimination and intolerance – and to which India, along with most other nations, has committed itself” Gerald Berreman (cited in Thorat and Umakant 2004: xxv)

‘The possibility that the current Indian Hindu-Muslim or upper versus lower-caste conflict may be, in a significant sense, a variant of a modern problem of “ethnicity” or “race” is seldom entertained…”racism” is thought of as something the white people do to us. What Indians do to one another are variously described as “communalism”, “regionalism” and “casteism” but never “racism”’. Dipesh Chakrabarty (1994: 145)

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