What is the history of caste in a city? Indian modernizers assumed that the various processes of modernity, including industrial capitalism, would attenuate caste and create the possibility of new social relationships, including class solidarity. Instead, capitalism relied on caste to recruit and discipline labor, and the colonial and postcolonial governments deployed it for housing, city planning, and provisions for social welfare. On its part, caste adapted to housing, urban planning, and even land tenures. Even the purported antitheses of capitalism — Marxism and Communism — could not annihilate caste. As a result, caste became robust even as it was shrouded beneath the veneer of modern urban life.
Outcaste Bombay (University of Washington Press, 2021) examines the interplay of caste and class in twentieth century Bombay. It studies processes that are transnational — capitalism, Marxism, urban planning, literature — and the ways in which they became relevant to life in the city. It focuses on urban outcastes — Dalits primarily, and also the urban poor – to trace their interaction with city-making and urban politics, their sense of self and community, and the cultural life they fashioned in Bombay.
This inter-disciplinary book draws on rare English and Marathi language sources — including novels, poems, and manifestoes — and contributes to debates in the fields of South Asian history, global Marxism, social anthropology, urban studies, labor studies, Dalit studies, and literature.
Juned Shaikh is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His research interests include Modern South Asia, urban studies, labor studies, Dalit Studies, and global Marxism. His second book project will be on the life and times of Gangadhar Adhikari, a scientist who embraced communism, and became a prominent leader of the Communist Party of India. When he is not working, or spending time with his family, he enjoys cooking, gardening, hiking, and following cricket scores from around the world.
Saronik Bosu (@SaronikB on Twitter) is a doctoral candidate in English at New York University. He is writing his dissertation on South Asian economic writing. He is also coordinator of the Medical Humanities Working Group at NYU, and of the Postcolonial Anthropocene Research Network. He also co-hosts the podcast High Theory.