“Democracy, Caste, and Bhimrao Ambedkar’s Rhetoric of Reconstruction”
Bhimrao Ambedkar (1891–1956) is one of the most pivotal figures for India’s democracy. Not only did he serve as the architect in the 1940s for India’s constitution, Ambedkar also advocated for India’s most oppressed—the lower castes and the so-called "untouchables" left out of the prevailing caste hierarchy. Drawing on themes in his recent book, The Evolution of Pragmatism in India, Stroud argues that Ambedkar’s commitment to democracy and his rhetorical activity were unified in a philosophical outlook with roots in his early education at Columbia University. It was there that young Ambedkar stumbled into the classroom of John Dewey, starting a lifelong fascination with the pragmatist’s books, ideas, and ideals. Ambedkar’s elaboration of the pragmatist notion of democracy as a way of life will be explored in his own rhetorical activities and anti-caste philosophy, revealing a new perspective on rhetorical reconstruction, highlighting an overlooked figure in Indian public address, and affirming the value of adding caste to our narratives of social justice.
Scott R. Stroud is an associate professor of communication studies and affiliated faculty of the South Asia Institute at The University of Texas at Austin. He serves as the program director of media ethics at the Center for Media Engagement. He is the co-founder of the first John Dewey Studies Center in India at Savitribai Phule Pune University.