Transborder Conversations on Race, Caste, and Indigeneity

The Idea

Race, caste and indigeneity speak to a historically and geographically specific constellation marking the politics and perspectives of the global south. But rarely have they been thought or taught together. The proposed research circle seeks to advance a transborder, translocal, and transdisciplinary dialogue on the politics and praxis of knowledge making by bringing together faculty and graduate students who work from university-based locations, but whose intellectual and socio-political engagements embed them in multiple communities and struggles. The theme, "Race, Caste, and Indigeneity," constitutes the chief node for advancing these conversations, especially as it allows us to unsettle and by-pass multiple binaries and pre-existing frameworks for examining questions of oppression, marginality, epistemology, and politics. We are interested in exploring how the politics of expertise, authority, engagement, and knowledge making are negotiated and reworked through these multi-sited, and necessarily anti-disciplinary, engagements and how these engagements might challenge certain neo-liberal multicultural ideas (e.g., outreach, service, empowering), while also complicating and advancing existing theoretical critiques and concepts. Together, the members of the research circle will examine ways of getting past theoretical and methodological roadblocks that discourage academics from approaching knowledge as a set of "languages" that are continuously in movement, and that simultaneously allow us to imagine social movements and "non-academic" sites as sources of knowledges/translations that are continuously in motion.


The proposed research circle emerges from several interlinked conversations that have emerged separately on the University of Minnesota campus over the last five years on questions pertaining to the politics of knowledge making and translation across north/south borders, as well as on a need to rethink the institutional politics and practices associated with "internationalization" and "diversity." Since April 2013, a group of faculty and graduate students have come together to give a concrete forward direction to these conversations under the broad umbrella of what we have called the UMN-Vassar College Workshops on Race, Caste, and Indigeneity. These workshops have been supported by the Institute for Global Studies.

Past Events

  • Speaker, Christi Merrill, Department of Comparative Literature & Asian Languages and Culture, University of Michigan, "His Master's Voice and Other Questions of Fidelity"
  • Co-sponsor of the South Asia Seminar Series of talks and workshops
  • Speaker, A. Mangai, Department of English, Stella Maris College, "Performing Violence: Politics through Feminist Theater"
  • Development Studies & Social Change Topics Course on Race, Caste, and Indigeneity