Race and Caste

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Politics and International Studies

Module overview

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

  • 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

Method of assessment

  • Assignment 1: 20%
  • Assignment 2: 80%

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


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.