SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Race and Caste

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/2023
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 2

The course gives students an opportunity to focus on forms of hierarchy and social injustice based on race, caste and descent. This will be a relatively unusual course in that it brings together forms of thinking and struggle against social injustice that might be thought of as analogous, but are rarely placed in conversation with one another despite a history of borrowing, comparison and sometimes mutual misunderstanding. Rather than being structured around analogical juxtaposition of the categories of race and caste, the course will encourage an exploration of the genealogical entanglements of these categories. Geographically, the course will focus on India, South Africa, the United States and the UK, thereby enabling a range of comparative conversations about the legacies of empire (especially the British empire), social justice strategies, affirmative action, diaspora and a range of other subjects of interest to students of political theory and international relations.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Appreciate the complex genealogical entanglements of race and caste
  • Appreciate the entanglements of (and not simply compare and contrast) struggles against racism and casteism
  • 'Decolonise' their thinking around a range of questions including the constitution of the modern world, as well as the appropriation of nationalism, cosmopolitanism, Marxism, feminism and queer theory by Black and Dalit struggles
  • Analyse the relevance of race and caste in the contemporary politics of four modern democratic political systems (India, South Africa, United States, United Kingdom) 


2 hours seminar per week

Scope and syllabus

  1. Genealogies of Race and Caste
  2. Slavery, indentured labour, and the making of the modern world
  3. Racism and Casteism in the anticolonial canon
  4. Nationalism, internationalism and cosmopolitanism in Black and Dalit thought
  5. Black Marxism / Dalit Marxism
  6. Black Feminism / Dalit Feminism
  7. Black queer / Dalit queer
  8. Race and Caste in Diaspora
  9. Affirmative Action and Reservation
  10. Beyond law and state 

Method of assessment

Assessment is 100% coursework.


Suggested reading

  • Nicholas Dirks, Castes of Mind
  • Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic
  • Ashwin Desai and Ghoolam Vahed, The South African Gandhi
  • Faisal Devji, The Impossible Indian
  • CLR James, The Black Jacobins
  • Cedric Robinson, Black Marxism
  • WEB Dubois, The Souls of Black Folk
  • BR Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste
  • Angela Davis, Women, Race and Class
  • Anupama Rao, The Caste Question


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules