Indian publishing house Navayana against caste

April 2006 -

On the surface, you cannot say who belongs to which caste in India. Unlike racial and gender markers, caste seems invisible. Yet, it is the most pervasive and powerful social category. (Read more about the caste system in India) While racial discrimination becomes an international issue and there is moral pressure to do away with it, caste is not seen as immoral even while it has the sanction of religion.

However, as India's foremost modernist thinker B.R. Ambedkar remarked, "the Hindu's public is his caste". In post-independence India, there has been a tendency on the part of the intelligentsia and the elite to refuse to engage with caste. At best, caste is seen as something that concerns only dalits and other marginalized groups: it has become an area of ethnographic studies, a site of fieldwork for academics, a category discussed in terms of electoral mobilizational politics.

Boekomslag 'Brahman & Cricket'Navayana (Pali for 'new vehicle'), an independent Indian publishing house, seeks to forefront caste as the central faultline of Indian society.  Navayana seeks to understand caste and the manner in which it animates aspects of everyday life, so that one can evolve strategies to fight it.

Navayana is committed to generating debates on a range of issues related to caste. The manner in which caste operates in popular culture such as cinema and sport, for example, is explored in the book Brahmans and Cricket. The book looks at how and why a modern sport like cricket has come to be dominated by brahmans who form hardly 3 per cent of the Indian population, and the role that popular cinema plays in the perpetuation of casteist status quo. Another instance is the forthcoming book by historian Dilip Menon (The Blindness of Insight: Why Communalism is about Caste) who argues that the debate about communalism and secularism is actually about caste.

The task of critiquing and challenging caste is certainly not easy. Navayana is a little vehicle headed in this direction.

The Navayana publishing house is supported by the Prince Claus Fund