Institutt for sosialantropologi

BSAS - Jayaseelan Raj: Ghettos of the state: Spatiality of caste in Kerala

We are happy to announce Jayaseelan Raj from King's College London to hold this department seminar.

Bergen Social Anthropology Seminar 2024, UiB-logo



This paper ethnographically locates Dalit settlements, often referred to as ‘colonies’, within the caste structure of state and society in Kerala, India. The relationship between the colonies and the life outside is understood as an element of the larger process of how the Dalit settlements are ‘stigmatised, criminalised and ghettoised’ in contrast to the ‘enlightened and advanced’ mainstream Kerala society. The basis for the reproduction of this contrast and of this sociospatial life needs to be located within how the caste system becomes central to what could be called Kerala’s nationalist ideology. Rather than provincializing the colonies as an aberration to the mainstream settlements, this paper relationally locates the reproduction of colonies within the reproduction of the Kerala state. The focus on this encompassing ideology goes beyond the dominant economistic narratives of development, marginality, and inequality that are couched in the discourse of the Kerala development model.


Jayaseelan Raj is a Senior Lecturer of Anthropology and Development at King's College London, and a Fellow in the GRNPP at SOAS, University of London. He is the author of Plantation Crisis: Ruptures of Dalit Life in the Indian Tea Belt (UCL Press, 2022), and coauthor of Ground Down by Growth: Tribe, Caste, Class and Inequality in Twenty-First Century India (Pluto Press, 2017). His research and writings focus on the plantation system and labour, caste and class, agrarian capitalism and migration, and state and Dalit question in India.


The department seminar, known as Bergen Social Anthropology Seminars (BSAS), is the main forum for dialogue and debate about anthropological research and theoretical development at the Department in Bergen. All is welcome!