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South Asia Center and the Department of Anthropology presents: Ajantha Subramanian

341 Eggers Hall

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Today, the hierarchies of Indian education prize the technical sciences as the true measure of intellectual worth and a proven means of professional advancement. The technical graduate has become India’s greatest export, widely understood to exemplify India’s comparative advantage in the global marketplace. The value and mobility of Indian technical knowledge are most graphically represented by the success story of the Indian Institutes of Technology. Within Indian and, to a lesser degree, American public discourse, the IITian has become an exemplar of intellectual merit, someone seen as naturally gifted in the technical sciences. This talk explores how the IITian’s merit is underwritten by a shift in the definition of caste from more localized articulations to a generalized, supralocal ideal-type that enables new forms of capital investment. In its transformation from a more localized to a national, and even transnational category, caste functions as a commodity form that produces equivalence out of difference in order to mobilize value. Indeed, Subramanian hopes to show that to be an IITian is itself a new form of caste identity, one whose consolidation can be compared with the production of whiteness in the U.S. Speaking: Ajantha Subramanian Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology Cornell University Sponsor: Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs, Co-Sponsor South Asia Center, Co-Sponsor Department of Anthropology, Co-Sponsor

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