ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Destitute Thinking

Practising Caste embraces a courageous minimalism to tease out minimal, lowest-level constituents in the making of caste from practices of touch and counterposes them to the idea of society. Ethical impoverishment, the book tells us, is a precondition for and the initial form of new thinking and living. Destitution prepares the ground for inventing new forms of sociality.

 

The voice that speaks to us from the pages of Practicing Caste: On Touching and Not Touching has a rare intensity. We do hear the unmistakable timbre of Aniket Jaaware’s speech—gentle, firm, sharp—but in the voice of the text there is more, and there is less. The we that addresses the reader is less than an individual, and at the same time far more, as it capaciously draws us in, not as a public but as participants in the intimacy of thinking. The diminishing of the speaking subject, even as it embraces audacity and risk, is an important aspect of Aniket’s project. He referred to Practicing Caste as an exercise in style which enabled him to think about what he has written down. “I am not the person, really, who should have written this, but I could write this because I followed the thread of style to find my way about, to find an argument, perhaps even suggest a few new things.” The discovery and pursuit of a minimalist style appear to have allowed Aniket to inhabit his words without being their origin or custodian, and open them up to an unborn, unpredictable future.

At the heart of this minimalism is a process of dispossession of intellectual baggage, a paring down of scholarly inheritance, a beginning in “asceticism and poverty” as in Edmund Husserl’s first reduction. Even this invocation of phenomenology—or for that matter structuralism and deconstruction—may be misleading: rather than signalling resources and authority, they guide us to witness an act of stripping down. “Oublierring” is the fascinating name Aniket invented for this move, suggesting both deliberate forgetting and an erring that frees it from the full control of intention. He is sensitive to the limits of this act: an entire, absolute forgetting is impossible, as some things remain, which may belong to a “second nature” not open to scrutiny and abolition. Aniket suggests that his invocation of the “literary” in a broad sense—of rhetoric and tropology and genres—may have come from there. This space, that of the humanities so to say, is important because it appears as a primary marker that differentiates this book from the proliferating enquiries into caste in the social sciences. As we shall see, it may be a mistake though to regard the “literary” as a stable positivity, as an alternative foundation for a secure theory of caste. We also need to remember that Aniket’s interest is not in explaining caste but in its annihilation. Caste is not an object of knowledge but a practice whose destruction requires forgetting and thinking the basics again.

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Updated On : 12th Jul, 2019
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