Submit a Manuscript to the Journal

Journal of International and Intercultural Communication

For a Special Issue on

Caste as a communicative phenomenon: Power, control, and resistance

Abstract deadline
31 July 2024

Manuscript deadline
01 January 2025

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Mohan J. Dutta, Massey University
[email protected]

Santhosh Chandrashekar, University of Denver
[email protected]

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Caste as a communicative phenomenon: Power, control, and resistance

Communication scholars across different subfields have historically theorized India as a postcolonial nation-state in the Global South without paying sustained attention to the various fault lines that run through Indian society. Critical here is the hegemonic positioning of India as a postcolonial space, writing over, erasing, and obfuscating critical and necessary conversations on the deeply entrenched power inequalities in Indian culture that predate colonialism. While more recent scholarship has noted the alarming rise of Hindu rightwing majoritarianism in India, still missing with a few exceptions is an engagement with caste/ism as the foundational structure of Indian society, the nature of caste as one of the oldest and most violent forms of racism, its role in the re/production of the racist epistemology of European race science, its revitalization through racial logics under European colonialism of the Indian subcontinent, and caste/ism’s central role in producing Indian anti-Muslim violence and violence against other religious minorities that have serious implications for intercultural communication.

This absence is conspicuous when viewed against the growing interest in caste not just among scholars from different disciplines, but also emerging anti-caste activism across North American cities and campuses. While new knowledge formations such as critical caste studies, the launch of dedicated journals such as CASTE/A global journal on social exclusion (Brandeis University), and growing interest in caste as a descent-based and, therefore, racialized form of social exclusion point to increased academic interest in this matter, growing anti-caste activism has forced universities and city councils across the U.S. and globally to consider adding caste to the list of protected categories. These developments together have drawn attention to caste as having intercultural implications that go far beyond the borders of South Asia in general and India in particular, expanding into the networks and linkages of the diaspora.

This special edited volume is being put together with two goals in mind. First, we join a growing chorus of scholars who believe that this is a critical disciplinary moment for drawing attention to caste/ism. Here, we note the role of disrupting and dismantling the erasure of caste in Communication Studies, particularly in the threads of postcolonial and decolonial studies that have shaped dominant disciplinary conversations. Second, and more importantly, we are committed to foregrounding anticaste scholarship from scholars and activists drawn from marginalized castes and minoritized religious communities. Critically important is the anti-caste organizing work in the academe that outlines the violence of caste in the production of disciplinary structures, challenging upper caste power and techniques of disciplining that serve as gatekeepers of critical conversations. We note with concern the caste fragility that has emerged as the upper caste response to continue to perpetuate the power and control over discursive registers of knowledge generation.

As such, we aim to co-create a forum alongside Dalit-Bahujan-Adivasi-Muslim-Christian-Sikh scholars and those from other marginalized groups to interrogate different dimensions of the casteist and communal politics that constitute Indian cultural landscape. Here, we critically note our own different caste-class positions in this broader anti-caste project and call for critically interrogating the very politics that shape the co-creation of spaces. In doing so, we hope that the volume will not only dislodge hegemonic frameworks that have presented India in limited ways (i.e., primarily as a postcolonial nation-state that is part of the underdeveloped Global South or as the largest and only democracy in South Asia or as a space for theorizing decoloniality) but that the essays included herein will also call attention to the importance of caste and religious identities in understanding power and oppression among South Asian communities in different parts of the world. Of particular interest to us is the role of intercultural communication in the organizing of disciplinary knowledge frameworks that reproduce caste hegemony. In this context, below are some issues and topics that this issue is broadly interested in:

  • The importance of caste/ism as an analytic framework for communication scholars interested in understanding power and inequities
  • The communicative construction of caste
  • Caste in the politics of knowledge production
  • Ambedkarite and other approaches to understanding and challenging caste
  • The entanglements of caste and race
  • Caste and Indigeneity in the Hindutva project
  • Brahminical hegemony, anti-Brahminical traditions, and their contemporary relevance to understanding Indian society
  • The diffusion of racial logics into caste-centered social ecologies, and their impact on historically marginalized groups
  • The gendered and sexual workings of caste, including caste-based sexual violence
  • Caste/ism among non-Hindu communities originating in the Indian subcontinent
  • Caste/ism in South Asian countries other than India and South Asian diasporic communities
  • Caste/ism in Indian popular culture
  • Growing anti-Muslim racism in India and its relationship to caste/ism
  • Anti/caste discourses in online spaces
  • Digital resistance to caste politics
  • Regionalism and caste/ism
  • Caste abolition

These topics are not exhaustive but are meant to provide an idea of what this volume will focus on. All work that is focused on caste and its impact is welcome. Please send a 250-word title and an abstract to [email protected] and [email protected] no later than July 31, 2024. Contributors whose abstracts are accepted should plan on turning in their full manuscript by Jan 1, 2025. All manuscripts will have to follow the journal submission guidelines.


About the editors

Mohan J. Dutta is a fourth-generation academic, a Kayastha (scribes, administrators, ministers, and record-keepers) from West Bengal, India. On his father’s side, he descended from a joint family of union organizers, school teachers, filmmakers, scientists, and Left party workers engaged in the working-class politics of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPIM]. His mother’s side of the family migrated from what is currently marked geographically as Bangladesh. He is an upper-class Professor of Communication and Director of the Center for Culture-centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE) at Massey University in Aotearoa New Zealand, where he has participated alongside activist interventions engaged with questions of Muslim sovereignty, Adivasi resistance, and anti-caste politics. His earliest engagement with the caste question reflects on the presence/absence of caste in Left politics.

Santhosh Chandrashekar is a first-generation scholar from the southern state of Karnataka in India. He is from a Lingayat weaver community that is included in both the state and central governments’ Other Backward Classes or OBC lists. Santhosh is a proud beneficiary of India’s affirmative action policies (known as reservation system) for lower(ed) castes, which played no small role in his academic journey.  He is an assistant professor in Communication Studies at the University of Denver, and an affiliated faculty with Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Gender and Women's Studies, and the Joint Doctoral Program in Religious Studies.