News & Events

Sudras and the Nation: Periyarist Explorations | Article by Dr. Karthick Ram Manoharan

November 17, 2022

NLS faculty member Dr. Karthick Ram Manoharan’s article titled “Sudras and the Nation: Periyarist Explorations” has been published as part of a special series in the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW). Titled “Indian Freedom Struggle and Beyond: The Decade of the 40s,” this special series intends to open an intellectual space for alternative readings of archival material on the histories of India’s independence.


The sudra question is a complicated one in Indian sociology, history and politics, but it had an impact on a significant period of the Dravidian movement. Periyar E.V. Ramasamy referred to the non-Brahmin castes of South India, who did not belong to the ‘untouchable’ communities, as sudras, the lowest varna in the Hindu social order. He used the inferiorized identity of ‘sudra’ not in assertion or pride, but as a social critique of brahminism. Acknowledging the existence of multiple jatis within the sudra varna, Periyar criticized their notions of hierarchy towards each other and especially towards the Dalits. He sought to consistently remind the sudras of their place within brahminism and the need to challenge caste as a system. This paper discusses how Periyar’s ‘sudra critique’ also contained within it an alternative approach to the nation-state.

Read the full article here.

About the Special Series

Elaborating on the theme of the series, the EPW states: “Our aim is not only to cover forgotten histories, but to uncover lesser-known empirical evidence from perspectives that have not been explored before within the purview of the nationalist imagination. This special series will borrow from as well as critically examine the category of “the beyond” as suggested by Gopal Guru in his article titled “The Idea of India: ‘Derivative, Desi and Beyond’”. The category of the ‘beyond” is in sharp contrast to the traditionalist/revivalist idea of nation and nationalism and also distinct from the liberal imagination. The idea of discourse from the beyond, is meant to express different, dissonant and defiant perspectives, both in terms of substance as well as style. For this special series, we intend to invite papers that, in dialogue with this “beyond”, interpret cultural and political discourse during the period of modern Indian history in a manner that challenges the nationalist canon.”