Conversations with Ambedkar: Ten Ambedkar Memorial Lectures

March 27, 2019


Dr. Valerian Rodrigues, Visiting Scholar in the Department of Humanities at SFU, will present his edited volume of lectures on the legacy of B. R. Ambedkar, in conversation with Prof. Samir Gandesha of the Department of Humanities at SFU.


In B. R. Ambedkar (1891-1956) we find a rare blending of great learning and political leadership, in spite of the social ostracism and marginality that birth in a low caste thrust on him. His massive scholarly output went alongside intense and combative engagement with the social and political concerns of the day. He brought much methodological reflectivity to his academic endeavour and an ethically imbued consideration  to such substantial issues as the idea of the human, just social order, democracy, constitutionalism and rights, state and power, and religion and morality. 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, to be welded  into the folds of a constitutional democracy. His quest for the right religion led him to embrace Buddhism with millions of his followers after deliberating on this measure for years. Experiences of marginality of the socially excluded and politically insignificant such as those of ethnic and religious minorities, the blacks, and refugees and migrants finds an empathetic echo in the writings and struggles led by Ambedkar.


The lectures at Ambedkar University Delhi brought together in this volume dwell on some of the most telling concerns that our age confronts: concerns of justice, social closures, bare life and sovereign power, political agency, discrimination and affirmative action, displacement and migration, new modes and languages of command and control, social movements under the shadow of global capital, and politics of epistemic and normative frames on offer today. While some of these lectures take off from Ambedkar’s writings and interventions, others meet Ambedkar in shared concerns by remaining within the frame of their distinct academic specialisation or professional pursuits. The result is a deep conversation where scholarship and social concerns meet begetting a complex tapestry of their own. The introduction, which highlights the distinctiveness of Ambedkar as a scholar, and the scholarship that goes in his name, acts as a connecting thread to the themes and concerns mounted in this volume.

Valerian Rodrigues, ed. Conversations with Ambedkar: Ten Ambedkar Memorial Lectures. Delhi, Tulika and Ambedkar University Delhi Press, 2019.


Valerian Rodrigues taught at Mangalore Universsity, Karnataka, India (1982-2003), and Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India (2003-2015). He was Ambedkar Chair, Ambedkar University Delhi (2017-2018). His recent books include The Essential Writings of B.R. Ambedkar (2002), The Indian Parliament: A Democracy at Work (2011) (co-authored with B.L. Shankar), Speaking for Karnataka (2018) (co-authored with Rajendra Chenni, Nataraj Huliyar and S. Japhet). He has edited Conversations with Ambedkar: 10 Ambedkar Memorial Lectures (2019). He was Senior Visiting Professor at Julius Maximilians University, Würzburg, Germany (2011-15) and Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) Chair in Contemporary Indian Studies at Erfurt University and Fellow of Max Weber Kolleg, Erfurt, Germany (2012). He was Agatha Harrison Fellow, St. Antony's College, Oxford University (1989-1991). He received the University Grants Commission National Swami Pranavananda Saraswati Award for Political Science in 2011, and was National Fellow of Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) (2015-17). He served as a member of the Advisory Committee for the international conference, Quest for Equity: Reclaiming Social Justice, Revisiting Ambedkar, held in Bangalore during 21-23 July 2017. He is currently a visiting Professor in the Department of Humanities at SFU.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019


SFU Vancouver
515 West Hastings
Harbour Centre 1600 Canfor Policy Room

Please register here.

  • David Lam Centre
  • Department of Humanities
  • Institute for the Humanities