Friday, November 26th, 2021 Caste and the Body as Infrastructure of Equality: Labour, Death, Force

Friday, November 26, 20214:00PM - 5:00PMOnline Event, Online Event


Pathbreakers: New Postdoctoral Research on South Asia at U of T



Taking up treatments in social thought on work as an insult to status and an assertion of dignity, the recuperation of collective standing in the recognition of individualised death, and the imagination of sovereignty derived from common culpabilities, this presentation explores how caste as a particular contextualisation of questions of equality is framed through mediation of the body as an analytical instrument. How might we understand the polemical force of B.R Ambedkar’s formulation of a “division of labourers” as description of inequality? How does the category of atrocity anchor untouchability as the reconciliation between multitudes of the dead and death as individual event? How might a poetic figuration of force frame sovereignty as collective culpability for every body harmed? Through thumbnail sketches of polemical, conceptual, and aesthetic strategies through which Dalit and other thinkers frame and engage these questions, I hope to share the sense in which these particular operationalisations of caste may be inhabited as lessons in thinking with equality as an axiom and aspiration.

Speaker’s Bio:

William F. Stafford, Jr. is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Visual Studies at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. He completed his PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley with a dissertation on the autorickshaw meter in Delhi as an exemplary format of “public” transactions and anchor of a variable ethos of commercial sociality. His current project takes up the autorickshaw meter-mounted panic button to explore architectures of “sequester” as a spatialising genre of governance and sociality in India. Taking the Lakshman Rekha as a technological artefact and visual rhetoric of security, his project works through political theologies and aesthetics of the individuation, identification, and fungibility of city residents in the “democratisation” of a gendered moral economy of location through the platformisation of bodily security. He has co-edited a collection of essays on topology and method in anthropology, authored essays and book reviews on political theologies of demonitisation in India and imaginaries of belonging through and beyond labour in Sri Lanka, and undertaken academic, policy, and legal research on bonded labour, forced labour, and the minimum wage in South Asia.


William F. Stafford, Jr.
Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Visual Studies, University of Toronto Mississauga

Kajri Jain
Department of Visual Studies, University of Toronto Mississauga

Christoph Emmrich
Department for the Study of Religion and Director of the Centre for South Asian Studies, Asian Institute

Main Sponsor

Asian Institute


Centre for South Asian Studies

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