01. The Trauma of Caste with Thenmozhi Soundararajan

Season #4

Thenmozhi Soundararajan is a Dalit Civil rights artist, organizer, and theorist who has worked with hundreds of organizations to better understand the urgent issues of racial, caste, and gender equity. Working across disciplines she is an innovative strategist and thinker that has built bridges between many communities around the world.

Through her work at Equality Labs, Thenmozhi has mobilized the South Asian American community to confront their historical trauma and to break the silence about caste, and to commit to ending caste apartheid, gender-based violence, white supremacy, and religious intolerance. Thenmozhi previously co-founded Third World Majority, an international media training organization and collective that supported people from disenfranchised

Her intersectional, cross-pollinating work—research, education, art, activism, and digital security—helps to create a more generous, global, expansive, and inclusive definition of South Asian identity, along with safe spaces from which to honor the stories of these communities. Thenmozhi’s work has been recognized by the U.S. Congress, The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, The Producers Guild of America Diversity Program, The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Sorbonne, Source Magazine, Utne Reader, The National Center for the Humanities, The National Science Foundation, The Ford Foundation, and The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. She is a frequent contributor on issues related to South Asia, caste, gender, and racial Equity, as well interfaith issues and peacebuilding, and has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, Guardian, ABC, and NBC news.  She was also an inaugural fellow of the Robert Rauschenberg Artist as Activist,  Atlantic Foundation for Racial Equity, and is a current fellow at Stanford Center for South Asian Studies. 

In this episode, Anjali and Thenmozhi discuss:

  • The behind the scenes process for Thenmozhi's book, The Trauma of Caste: A Dalit Feminist Meditation on Survivorship, Healing, and Abolition.
  • How caste operates as a system of oppression
  • How embodiment acts as a form of resistance
  • The importance of caste abolition ancestors like Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar and feminists like Savitribai Phule
  • How we can unlearn caste even when it's invisibilized and ignored to lead to shared healing
  • How folks living in the diaspora can show up during these times as unchecked ethno nationalism and religious fundamentalism rise in India
  • How we can practice yoga as Allies of the caste abolition movement
  • How we can create spaces that invite and nurture folks from all backgrounds

You can connect with Thenmozhi on her website and on Instagram @dalitdiva.

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