O Lord, This moralist Hypocrisy of Academia

Pardon my ignorance but I want to ask: Who is this sociology professor Vivek Chibber, whose interview is published in The Hindu today? It seems that he knows more about Dalit and other social movements than the movements know about themselves. His expert opinion is that the movements and mobilization around identity are not aligning with economic interests and somewhere are not at all inclusive as they are yet to expand their horizons to class based mobilization. Sorry to say but it is easy to state this when you are an academician and based in distant lands.

थोड़े अपने विश्वविद्यालय के माहौल से बाहर आकर देखिये- जहान और भी है। हमारे कचरा वेचकों से मिलिए वह न केवल अपनी आइडेंटिटी (शनाख्त/पहचान) को लेकर लड़ रहे हैं बल्कि आर्थिक व समाजिक बदलाव के लिए तत्पर अभ्यास कर रहे हैं।  वामपंथी अच्छे हैं, आपकी उनपर टिपण्णी सही है पर हमें हर जगह वामपंथियों की सहायता की आवश्यकता नहीं है।

I want to know why this had to be stated:

“There is a parallel with the U.S. Black Lives Matter, if you think of it as a movement, has two layers to it. One is a layer of real organisers in urban areas, who were incredibly and very concertedly active around issues of economic justice. Because for them the most pressing issues are not so much discrimination in the labour market, but not having a job at all; not so much the exclusion in schools, but not having [access to] schools at all. These activists are very aware that their concerns as black people involve fundamental issues of economic justice, not just narrowly racial justice.

Furthermore, these activists are also aware that what has become Black Lives Matter is as much a name brand and a commodified emblem as it is a movement. And in the past six months or so, we have seen Black Lives Matter has not been as visible as it was a year ago, on the streets. This is partly because many of the most prominent icons of Black Lives Matter are already moving into the Democratic Party, or into Teach for America, things like that.

So it is an avenue that a certain section of the black middle class is using for its upward advancement. We have seen that happen in India too — with Dalit intellectuals and Dalit politicians.”

I am yet to understand why these academicians particularly the liberal ones who make the entire population of poor and marginalized their subjects to do PhD or Post Doc. become so moralist when the individuals from marginalized communities move upward. They themselves use their ‘subjects’, who remain poor and marginalized through out their study, to earn recognition in the form Doctorate or a high paying job. If the social actors or organizers, most of whom were (are) poor, exploited and othered move up the ladder it looks like individual advancement at the cost of othering the rest. Such a stupid yardstick of morality!

Somewhere I feel such academicians desire everyone to stay poor so that the academia and their privileged allies remain the best representative of othered voices. Upward movement of Dalits, and Blacks in case of United States at some level is unacceptable as their route went through social mobilization around identity.

They forget that Ambedkar was one man alone, who moved upward and opened the doors of the given space for everyone and not just Dalits. And there are many like him. Even after staying in power Mayawati has not forgotten her roots, you may call her corrupt, so are your upper caste politicians who talk about development and equality. A lot of people who may not be Dalit or lower caste say Mayawati- Behenji was probably the best of all chief ministers in the state of Uttar Pradesh. She brought law and order to the state after contesting elections around the issues of identity politics.

I am not romanticizing identity based movements. It is worth  mentioning that those who have been grilled by marginalization have more sense of empathy and collective conscience for justice than those who are privileged enough by the virtue of their caste and class and their study of marginalized folks. Identity based movements have economic dimensions which many of our colleagues in universities fail to read. They may not have engaged with the social movements and mobilizations around marginalized identity. I am assuming a lot and I take the liberty of doing that on the basis of such interviews, academic papers and experiences with the academia.

Instead of sermonizing us about the virtues of class based and economic motive struggles, Chibber Sahib should spend some time in studying empathy and collective desire for justice in social movements and mobilizations around identity. He should also spend time with those who have moved upwards.

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