The Brahmin in the Mind

The Brahmin in the Mind

Exploring the nature and dynamics of caste and constructed hierarchies in oneself, groups and society.


22 February 2016

Exploring the nature and dynamics of caste and constructed hierarchies in oneself, groups and society.

Today, more than ever, we ask the questions: Why is the construction of social hierarchies so ingrained and so impenetrable? In what way do ideas of purity and pollution, risk and danger, come into play in the construction of these hierarchies (conscious and unconscious) in individuals as well as societies. At a more macro level, it is even more interesting to critically investigate how the politics of pollution, social risk and national borders interrelate in a modern society.

In Indian society particularly, why is the caste system so pervasive? What kind of processes will lead to the transformation, indeed elimination, of caste? We need to explore the nature of these hierarchies which exist both above and below the line of ‘touchability’ among other constructed hierarchies, that exists in all caste categories- non Dalit as well as Dalits. What are the implications of such processes at the individual, group and system level and what is its impact on the battle to eliminate caste? How are such discussions and explorations located within the process of asserting a politics of caste, based on identity, dominations, and assertions?

If we examine our own lives we will possibly come in touch with many examples of how deep-seated and ingrained constructed hierarchies are and the range of hierarchies we create. We may hold a self-image as one who has transcended and abhors such hierarchies. To what extent are these a defence against our abilities to hold differences, manage the ‘not like me’.

To what extent are they a defence against ‘not knowing’. Apart from destructive and dehumanising manifestations of hierarchy and exclusion such as caste based discrimination, we have other manifestations like colonisation and imperialism, gender discrimination and racial discrimination.

Unconscious processes such as projection and shadow indicate that often we end up replicating the very dynamics that we believe we abhor. The victim and the oppressor are not separated as inside -outside but we are both victims and oppressors, and everyone is implicated within a system that is structured on the basis of such hierarchies. The values we think we hold and values we actually hold may not be in the alignment we believe they are in.

It is important that these unconscious processes are examined, and a process of relinquishing past patterns and applying new insights is initiated, if one is to hold on to any hope of transforming individuals and society.

Undoubtedly, engaging or opening oneself up to such explorations requires great courage and an acknowledgement of one’s vulnerability.

The 4-day exploratory workshop (download brochure), The Brahmin in the Mind, in Lucknow, India, offers a space to explore these issues – to work on personal insight generation as well as insights about systemic and group phenomena. It is designed as an experiential workshop with a couple of seminars offering some conceptual frameworks. In that sense this is an intensive space relying on individual’s authority to explore, invest, share and generate insights and is not a talk shop or a round table. How the participants (members and staff) take forward the insights generated individually and collectively into the systems they are part of, they shape and lead, and the consequences of that cannot be predetermined.

Eliat Aram, CEO of the Tavistock Institute, is a consultant on the staff of the workshop.

For more information, please contact the Director, Rosemary Viswanath.

Sponsored by GRI: Group Relations India; National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights; HIDF: The Human and Institutional Development Forum.

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