Philosophers awarded Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA-IF) Freedom from Caste
Professor Meena Dhanda and Dr Karthick Ram Manoharan (incoming researcher from India) have received MSCA-IF funding of €224,933 for a new project - 'Freedom from Caste: The Political Thought of Periyar E.V. Ramasamy in a Global Context'. Dhanda will supervise Manoharan’s novel research at the University of Wolverhampton from October 2020 – September 2022 with the help of a steering group including leading international scholars on caste.
The European Commission's evaluation summary report of the project gave it a score of 98.8 percent. This project aims to provide a systematized and critical account of the political thought of Periyar E.V. Ramasamy (1879-1973), a key leader of the Dravidian Movement in South India and champion of anti-casteism and women’s liberation. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the research engages with primary works of Periyar covering a period of almost five decades. Some of these works will be translated for the first time from Tamil to English by Manoharan in collaboration with Dr Richard Frasca (Harvard University).
The project will augment the internationally recognized research undertaken at the University on the prevalence of casteism in the diaspora with a view to consolidate intellectual tools for anti-casteism. Dhanda’s last project (Caste in Britain) was funded by the Equality and Human Right’s Commission, UK. Her recently coedited special issue of the journal Religions, on Dalits and Religion (2019) includes Manoharan’s article ‘Freedom from God: Periyar and Religion’. Manoharan has also contributed to the journals Interventions, Continuum, and South Asian History and Culture. He is the author of Frantz Fanon: Identity and Resistance (Orient BlackSwan, 2019) and the co-editor of Rethinking Social Justice (Orient BlackSwan, 2020). His interdisciplinary background and his nuanced understanding of caste will make him an excellent addition to the university.
The research in the new project will articulate a critique of caste, manifested in pernicious and resilient forms of hierarchical ordering of people resulting in the deprivation of basic respect and human dignity, compounding material disadvantages to those placed at the bottom of the hierarchy. It will highlight the relevance of Periyar’s thoughts to global intellectual conversations on identity, feminism and social justice. It will build philosophical foundations of anti-casteism in a comparative, interdisciplinary juxtaposition of Periyar’s works with radical Western philosophers, political theorists and feminists. Thus, the research will open new possibilities of utilizing South Asian intellectual history and political thought to ‘decolonize’ the Western-centric academic practices of doing social and political philosophy. By holistically combining anti-casteism with feminist and secular agendas, this research will strengthen efforts to combat caste-related injustices in the Indian diasporic community in Europe and the USA. The project will support Manoharan in gaining a firmer ground in philosophy, enable achievement of an international standing as a researcher, expand his academic network and, thereby, establish prospects of an academic career in the UK/EU.
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