14 Queen's Park Crescent West, Toronto, ON M5S 3K9
Ashwin Varghese, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, O.P. Jindal Global University, India
Social inequality and power relations in postcolonial India have been understood primarily in terms of socioeconomic class or sociocultural caste differences, though emerging literature has suggested that a focus on ‘racialization’ is also crucial to explaining processes of social inequalities in the South Asia region. Drawing on some of these ‘new racism studies’ frameworks, I examine socio-cultural processes that perpetuate inequalities and how they manifest in contemporary policing practices in India. Drawing from its colonial legacy, I note how policing in India emerged by delegitimizing indigenous customs and imposing a centralised form of social control wherein the objects of policing were not just colonial subjects, but also racialised subjects. A racial colonial logic populated the operational hierarchy of colonial police, where supervisory positions were reserved for European officers who were to discipline and control a mass of ‘inferior’ indigenous subordinate personnel. I argue that these embedded structural inequalities have today transmuted into a complex caste-class-ethnoreligious field of structural inequality, which is evident in the caste-class-gender makeup of the police in postcolonial India, as well as the working conditions and everyday lives of the subordinate personnel. In this talk, I will show how these structural inequalities manifest in everyday policing practices in India creating sites of contestations, negotiations and transformations – including movements for unionisation countering (and decolonizing) embedded structural inequalities – and note how ‘racialisation’ may offer a lens through which we may theorise and contextualise these emerging developments.
About the speaker
Dr. Ashwin Varghese is a sociologist studying power relations, policing and state development. He is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Jindal School of Liberal Arts and Humanities, O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU), India, and a researcher in the Algorithmic Governance and Cultures of Policing: Comparative Perspectives from Norway, India, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa (AGOPOL) research project funded by the Research Council of Norway. His research paper ‘Police interactions in post-colonial India’ published in the Journal of Organizational Ethnography won the Emerald Literati Award for Outstanding Paper in 2023. His research papers and articles have been published in journals like International Critical Thought; Explorations; PoLAR etc. He has spent nearly seven years studying policing and state formations in India. His broader research interests include political sociology, sociology of law, governance, political economy, theories of everyday and ethnographic methods.
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