B.R Ambedkar’s Writings on Brahmanical Patriarchy
A Brahman ‘mega convention’ in contemporary Pune reasserts faith in endogamy for ‘national interest’, and imposes new codes on Brahman women. A Brahman Congress leader suggests that a Dalit chief minister be raped and paid compensation. In his 1916 paper “Castes in India”, the 25-year-old Ambedkar offered the insight that the caste system thrives by its control of women, and that caste is a product of sustained endogamy. Since then, till the time he piloted the Hindu Code Bill, seeking to radicalise women’s rights in the 1950s, Ambedkar deployed a range of arguments to make his case against Brahmanism and its twin, patriarchy.
While Ambedkar’s original insights have been neglected by sociologists, political theorists and even feminists, they have been kept alive, celebrated and memorialised by Dalit musical troupes and booklets in Maharashtra. Sharmila Rege, in this compelling selection of Ambedkar’s writings on the theme of Brahmanical patriarchy, illuminates for us his unprecedented sociological observations. Rege demonstrates how and why Ambedkar laid the base for what was, properly speaking, a feminist take on caste.
Sharmila Rege (1954–2013) was a sociologist who headed the Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Women’s Studies Centre, University of Pune. She is the author of Writing Caste/Writing Gender: Narrating Dalit Women’s Testimonios.
‘After finishing the manuscript of Against the Madness of Manu, in which she positioned Ambedkar as the central figure for the women’s movement in India, she told her students and colleagues that now that the book was complete, she could die peacefully’
—Obituary, The Hindu
‘To read this book is to mine a world of layered scholarship and the rewards are diverse and rich. Against the Madness of Manu is an invitation to practise maithri, social fellowship of the most fundamental kind, and in that sense, it echoes that deeply moving and brilliant text, The Buddha and His Dhamma’—EPW
‘This book of under 250 pages manages to cover an enormous terrain along with commentary that delves into Ambedkar’s life and times, offering valuable and thought-provoking interpretations of his work… read this excellent book from which there is much to learn’— Outlook
‘Against the Madness of Manu is a treasure! … Rege has laid out the context beautifully, making the essays accessible to even a reader who may not have had any exposure to debates on caste in India… This book should be essential reading for all students of social science’—Hindustan Times
‘A brilliant and timely intervention in feminist scholarship in India, Dalit studies, legal sociology, and the sociology of caste’—Kamala Visweswaran, author of Un/Common Cultures
‘In this volume, Sharmila Rege provides us a theoretically advanced interpretation of Babasaheb’s thinking on the interstices of the caste and feminist questions. Rege’s work assumes significance especially in the context of limited engagement with caste in mainstream feminism’—Gopal Guru, author of Humiliation: Claims and Context