Policing and metamorphosized racialization in postcolonial India

When and Where

Monday, November 20, 2023 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm
CG 265
Canadiana Gallery
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

head shot of Ashwin Varghese
Dr. Ashwin Varghese

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.


This event is free and all are welcome, but registration is required.

Prior to the seminar, join us for a light lunch from noon to 12:30 pm in the Centre Lounge. Please indicate your lunch RSVP for catering purposes when you register.

Register now using our Microsoft form.

About events from the CrimSL Research Cluster for the Study of Race and Inequality

This workshop is presented by the CrimSL Research Cluster for the Study of Race and InequalitySee the Cluster's full list of Fall 2023 Events.


Please note that CG 265 is on the second floor of the Canadiana Gallery building, with stair access only as there is no elevator. If you have any access needs or if there are any ways we can support your full participation in this session, please email crimsl.communications@utoronto.ca and we will be glad to work with you to make the appropriate arrangements.

Health & Safety

We are following health and safety measures outlined by the University of Toronto and the Government of Ontario. Should there be changes in protocols related to health and safety of our guests and community, registrants will be advised.

Contact Information


CrimSL Research Cluster for the Study of Racism and Inequality


14 Queen's Park Crescent West, Toronto, ON M5S 3K9