Ambedkar, Buddha, and Marx...Again

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Friday, February 8th, 2019

Friday, February 8, 20194:00PM - 6:00PM208N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place
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My talk will engage with a set of late works by B. R. Ambedkar—Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Ancient India, The Buddha and His Gospel, The Buddha and His Dhamma, and Buddha or Karl Marx—where the analysis of Buddhism’s history in India intersects with Ambedkar’s understanding of “religion” and his philosophy of conversion. My talk returns to a question that haunts Ambedkar scholarship. This concerns the issue of how to understand Buddhist conversion within the complexly ramified temporalities of “return” and (Marxist) “revolution” that frames the project of human emancipation for B. R. Ambedkar.

Anupama Rao is Senior Editor, Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East; and Acting Director, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. Rao has written widely on the themes of colonialism and humanitarianism, and on non-Western histories of gender and sexuality. Her book, The Caste Question (University of California Press, 2009) theorized caste subalternity, with specific focus on the role of anti-caste thought (and its thinkers) in producing alternative genealogies of political subject-formation.

She is currently working on a book on the political thought of B. R. Ambedkar; and a project titled Dalit Bombay, which explores the relationship between caste, political culture, and everyday life in colonial and postcolonial Bombay. Her most recent book, the edited volume Gender, Caste, and the Imagination of Equality was published in December 2017.

Her work has been supported by grants from the ACLS; the American Institute for Indian Studies; the Mellon Foundation; the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the SSRC. She was a Fellow-in-Residence at the National Humanities Center from 2008-09, and a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford during 2010-11. She was a Fellow at REWORK (Humboldt University, Berlin) in 2014-2015.


Anupama Rao
TOW Associate Professor, History and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS), Columbia University

Christoph Emmrich
Director, Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Toronto


Centre for South Asian Studies


UofT/McMaster University Numata Buddhist Studies Program

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