Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Contemporary South Asia

Ajantha Subramanian Book Adda — The Caste of Merit: Engineering Education in India

Friday, January 31, 2020

2:00pm – 4:00pm

Joukowsky Forum, 111 Thayer St

Ajantha Subramanian is Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies at Harvard University. Her research interests include political economy, political ecology, colonialism and postcoloniality, space, citizenship, South Asia, and the South Asian diaspora. Her first book Shorelines: Space and Rights in South India (Stanford University Press, 2009), chronicles the struggles for resource rights by Catholic fishers on India’s southwestern coast, with a focus on how they have used spatial imaginaries and practices to constitute themselves as political subjects. Her second book, The Caste of Merit: Engineering Education in India (Harvard University Press, 2019)tracks the relationship between meritocracy and democracy in India in order to understand the production of merit as a form of caste property and its implications for democratic transformation.


Sara Smith
is an Associate Professor of Geography at the University of North Carolina. She is a feminist political geographer interested in the relationship between territory, bodies, and the everyday. Her research seeks to understand how politics and geopolitics are constituted or disrupted through intimate acts of love, friendship, and birth. Smith has worked on these questions in the Ladakh region of India’s Jammu and Kashmir State in relation to marriage and family planning. Her first book, Intimate Geopolitics: Love, Territory, and the Future on India’s Northern Threshold, will be published by Rutgers University Press in March 2020.

Christien Tompkins is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences. He is a cultural anthropologist broadly concerned with the critical ethnographic study of how technocratic interventions into inequality reproduce racialized governance in the United States. His current research shows how experimental education reforms in Post-Katrina New Orleans have created new terrains for the development of racializing forms of expertise, design thinking, labor, and entrepreneurialism. This work intervenes in critical debates on the nature of neoliberalism, development, and colonial sovereignty by demonstrating how New Orleans has become a simultaneously exemplary and exceptional site for racializing technologies and institutions.

Shailaja Paik is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Cincinnati. Her research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of a number of fields: modern South Asia, Dalit studies, gender and women's studies, social and political movements, oral history, human rights and humanitarianism. As a historian, she specializes in the social and cultural history of Modern India. She is currently working on a National Endowment for the Humanities--American Institute of Indian Studies funded project, that focuses on the politics of caste, class, gender, sexuality, and popular culture in modern Maharashtra. 

Book Adda