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CSAS Lecture Series | Decasticization,"Dirty Work" and Dignity: A Case Study of Arunthathiyars in Tamil Nadu

Ram Mahalingam, Professor, Department of Psychology, U-M
Friday, September 7, 2018
5:00-6:30 PM
Room 1010 | 10th Floor Event Space Weiser Hall Map
Using the Chennai floods as a case study, I will explore how intersections of caste, class, "dirty work," and the politics of cleaning continue to ignore the sufferings of Arunthathiyar (A Dalit caste group in Tamil Nadu) as they cleaned the city after the Chennai floods in 2015. This presentation particularly focuses on the invisibility and erasure of the sufferings of Arunthathiyars from public memory.

Using qualitative interviews and social media analyses, my project explores the complex consequences of corporate irresponsibility in the mistreatment of Aruthathiyar janitors and active documentation of Arunthathiyars' sufferings by progressive and Dalit activists acting as their mnemonic communities. I will argue for the need to incorporate a social marginality perspective for disaster management to prevent dignity injuries and occupational hazards of the most marginalized groups, such as Arunthathiyars.

Ram Mahalingam is a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. He is currently the Director for the Barger Leadership Institute (, and is a cultural psychologist originally from Tamil Nadu, India.

Intersectionality, gender, and social marginality are the major themes of his research. He has edited two books and published numerous journal articles in interdisciplinary journals. His previous research explored the relationship between essentialism and power at the intersections of caste, social class, gender, race, and ethnicity.

He is currently working on three projects:

(a) dignity in the workplace, with a specific focus on janitors in India, the US, and South Korea;
(b) mindfulness, dignity, and social justice;
(c) cell phones and the making of the self.
Building: Weiser Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Asia, India, Psychology
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for South Asian Studies, International Institute, Asian Languages and Cultures, Barger Leadership Institute

International Institute Programming

The International Institute’s centers sponsor numerous conferences, lectures, exhibits, and cultural performances throughout the year. These events are designed to educate the university community and the public about global issues and inspire discussion and dialogue. 

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