Spring 2019 - HUM 381 D100

Selected Topics in the Humanities I (4)

Class Number: 8159

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 8:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    WMC 3531, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 14, 2019
    3:30 PM – 6:30 PM
    Location: TBA

  • Instructor:

    Valerian Rodrigues
  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956) was a rare blending of great learning and radical political action, in spite of the social ostracism and marginality that birth in a low caste thrust on him. His massive scholarly output as well as his professional life as a lawyer and educationist went alongside intense and combative engagement both against colonial rule and the dominant anti-colonial imaginary. While many saw his partisanship  with the socially low and despised as driving a wedge in India’s freedom struggle against colonial rule, he argued that freedom can become meaningful only if the former find access to lead an equally worthy life in the postcolonial political dispensation. His scholarship and political passion went alongside respect for constitutional democracy and non-violent mass action. He brought much methodological reflectivity to his academic endeavour and an ethically imbued considerations  to the substantial questions that he raised on the ideas of the human, just social order, democracy, constitutionalism and rights, state and power, and religion and morality. While his academic exposure made him familiar with transatlantic  social and political thought, the matrix of his scholarly endeavour and political intervention was woven around culturally embedded categories and concerns. As Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the constitution of free India, he was instrumental in crafting a legal regime  that made place for a vast and diverse people,  caught in different histories and ways of life but determined to pursue a just and free social order through the democratic path.  His quest for the right religion led him to embrace Buddhism with millions of his followers after reflecting and deliberating on this measure for years.

Ambedkar’s life is inextricably bound with the trajectory of Indian democracy. Over the years with the expansive reach of  this democracy to the diverse layers of Indian society and the egalitarian demands it has come to encompass, Ambedkar’s stature has expanded over the social canvass  much beyond the former untouchable or Dalit constituency that had rallied behind him. Various political forces have attempted to encash this political space. Ambedkar has also carved out a space of his own in the bourgeoning modes of cultural representations in India. At the same time the conditions of Dalits and other sections whose cause he championed has not undergone any appreciable change. The last three decades have registered a growing body of scholarship on Ambedkar and his concerns, which is not limited to India. Experiences of marginality of the socially excluded and politically insignificant such as those of  ethnic and religious minorities, the blacks, refugees and migrants finds an empathetic echo in the writings and struggles led by Ambedkar under conditions of global outreach.

Ambedkar’s reformulation of the following themes and issues, and their impact in shaping democracy in India will be the focus of the seminar. The course is divided into eleven uneven units. Every unit would call for an essential reading from the writings of Ambedkar accompanied by supplementary readings.

All course readings will be supplied.


1.     Familiarity with the work of a key non-transatlantic, post-colonial and subaltern political thinker and leader.
2.     Understanding the rationale for the rise of constitutional democracy in a post-colonial setting.
3.     Engaging with the significance of religion and religious conversion in the public sphere.
4.     Grappling with New Paradigms of the political.


  • Written Essay #1 + #2 60%
  • Participation 15%
  • Weekly Posting 13%
  • Presentation 12%



B.R.Ambedkar, “The Untouchables and the Pax Britannica”, in Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches (BAWS), Vol.12, Mumbai, Govt. of Maharashtra, 1993, pp. 83-147 (It is to be noted that this text was not published by Ambedkar and was a notebook) --------------------What Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables, BAWS, Vol. 9, 1991, Chapter III, pp. 40-124

B.R.Ambedkar, “The Triumph of  Brahmanism”, in BAWS, Vol. 3, pp. 266-331 B.R.Ambedkar, “Krishna and His Gita”, in BAWS, Vol.3, pp. 357-380

B.R.Ambedkar, “Annihilation of Caste”, BAWS, Vol. 1,  1979,  pp. 3-98

B.R. Ambedkar, “What it is to be untouchable”, BAWS, Vol.5, 1989, pp. 3-34
--------------------, “Buddha and Future of His Religion” BAWS, Vol. 17, Part 2, 2003, pp.97-108

B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or Partition of India, BAWS, Vol. 8, 1990, Ch. II (“A Nation Calling for a Home”), pp. 29-39 & Ch. XIII (“Must there be Pakistan”), pp.347-368 -------------------, What Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables, BAWS, Vol.9, 1991, Ch. VIII, pp.181-199 Supplementary Reading Aakash Singh Rathore, Indian Political Theory, Ch. 10 (“Dalit Svaraj”), London, Routledge, 2017, pp. 192-206 Anthony J. Parel, ed., Gandhi: Hind Swaraj and other Writings, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997, Editor’s  Introduction, pp.xiii-lxii

B.R. Ambedkar, Speech at the Constituent Assembly, BAWS, Vol.13, 1994, pp.1206-1218 -------------------, ‘Labour and Parliamentary Democracy’, in Valerian Rodrigues, ed., The Essential Writings of B.R. Ambedkar, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2004, pp.60-64 ---------------------(Ibid)‘Franchise’ pp. 65-74 ---------------------“Conditions Precedent for the Successful Working of Democracy”, Vol. 17, Part Three, 2003, pp. 473-486 ---------------------“Buddha or Karl Marx”, BAWS, Vol. 3, 1987, 441-462

B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or Partition of India, BAWS, Vol. 8, 1990, Chapter XIV (“The Problems of Pakistan”), pp. 369-384 -------------------, What Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables, BAWS, Vol. 9, 1991, Ch. VIII (“The Real Issue: What the Untouchables want”), pp. 199-238 ---------------------“The House the Hindus have Built”, BAWS, Vol. 5, 1989, pp. 145-169

B.R. Ambedkar, “Basic Features of the Indian Constitution” in BAWS,  Vol. 13, 1994, pp. 49-70 -----------------, “The Hindu Code Bill”, in Valerian Rodrigues, ed., The Essential Writings of B.R.Ambedkar, Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2004, 495-516

B. R. Ambedkar, ‘Evidence Before the Southborough Committee’, BAWS, Vol. 1, 1979, pp. 243-278
---------------------,Ibid, “States and Minorities”, 387-428

B.R.Ambedkar, “Away from the Hindus”, BAWS, Vol. 5,  1989, pp.403-421, -------------------, “Caste and Conversion”,  BAWS, Vol. 5, 1989, 422-425

B.R.Ambedkar, “Slaves and Untouchables”, BAWS, Vol.5, 1989, pp. 9-18 --------------------, “Parallel Cases”, BAWS,  Vol. 5, 1989, 75-88 --------------------, “Election Manifesto of the Scheduled Caste Federation, 1951”, BAWS, Vol. 17, Part One, 2003,  pp.386-403.

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