Resurgent Heroes and Resistance to State Power: Caste and Politics in South India

Tori Gross

Moderated by Mamadou Diouf

April 4, 2019 · 12-1PM

Columbia University, Fayerweather Hall, Room 411

The Committee on Global Thought (CGT) Lunchtime Seminars are a forum for Columbia University faculty and visiting scholars to present current research characterizing and assessing issues of global importance. Learn more about the CGT Lunchtime Seminars by clicking here.

Talk Description

This discussion focused on collective historical claims through which politically marginalized and newly urbanized people build community and construct identity as they strategically negotiate their status and rights with an omnipresent, paternalistic, and discriminatory nation-state. We explored the content of such claims, as well as the ways they are produced and widely disseminated through local scholarship, aesthetic representations, ritual events, and social media. The performative production of shared histories can draw communities together and help establish para-state authority to both court and resist the power of the nation-state. While my research is located in South India, the yearning expressions and fleeting achievements of sovereignty and righteous honor that I illuminate are common to identity movements’ transactions with state power in many parts of the world. Tensions between community and state and between the past as nostalgically remembered and the present as lived with resignation will resonate for students and scholars of politics, society, and the complex challenges of late capitalism.

About the Speaker

Tori Gross is the M.A. Director of Studies for the Committee on Global Thought. She supports students in their pursuit of academic and professional goals, and strives to ensure that the M.A. Program is intellectually enriching and personally rewarding. She currently co-teaches the M.A. Seminar through which she hopes to enrich students’ thinking with diverse intellectual perspectives, and strengthen their writing with thoughtful feedback and effective practical advice.

Gross is a recent graduate of the Columbia Ph.D. Program in Sociocultural Anthropology, and is keenly familiar with the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and a wide array of University resources. In May 2017, she completed her dissertation, The Fights of the Forsaken Kings: Caste Conglomeration, Heroism, and Sovereignty in Contemporary South India, which examines the changing gendered ethnic identity politics of newly urbanized Tamil Nadu. She is interested in the reorientation of affective landscapes that characterizes the development of individuals into cohesive groups, as well as the narrativization of moments of traumatic violence.

In addition to her Ph.D., Gross holds an M.A. in Religious Studies and a B.A. in World Religions and Sociology from McGill University. She has taught undergraduate and graduate courses at McGill, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, St. John’s University, and Columbia.

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The seminars take place on Thursdays from 12-1pm in Fayerweather Hall, Room 411 unless otherwise noted.