Public event

From bondage to citizenship: African American and Indian lower caste mobilisation

The deepest inequalities in the world’s two largest democracies are along the lines of caste in India and race in the United States. These inequalities have proven durable even though people at the bottom of these hierarchies have had political rights for over half a century. What influenced the mobilisation of African Americans and low-caste Indians for full citizenship between the 1940s and the 1970? What were the effects of this mobilisation on their political and social rights? In his talk Narendra Subramanian will compare two regions of historically high ethnic and class inequality, the Kaveri delta in India and the Mississippi delta in the US, and show how important differences in nationalist and civic discourse, social classification, and group identification enabled earlier enhancements in group representation and democracy in India.

Narendra Subramanian is Professor of Political Science at McGill University and Visiting Scholar at the Hertie School. He studies the politics of nationalism, ethnicity, religion, gender, and race in a comparative perspective, focusing primarily on India. He is currently engaged in a project comparing the effects of political rights on the socio-economic status of two historically bonded groups, titled From Bondage to Citizenship: The Enfranchisement and Advancement of Dalits and African-Americans.


Clara Weinhardt is a Lecturer in International Relations at the Hertie School and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi). Her research focuses on global governance and international negotiations, with a focus on North-South relations in trade.