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Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

Race, Caste, and Colorism

The Race, Caste and Colorism Working Group aims to cultivate a global network of scholars, artists, writers, translators and activists around a shared political, intellectual and aesthetic inquiry of race, caste and colorism.
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About the Project

With a focus on United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #16, Peace and Justice and Strong Institutions, the Race, Caste and Colorism Working Group will help foment intellectual and institutional shifts in the ways scholars and writers think about local manifestations of caste and casteism, and race and racism, as part of a global semiotics of colorism.

Colorism creates forms of consciousness—categories such as light and dark, good and evil, enlightened and unenlightened, for example—that manifest locally and persist globally. The persistence of color and colorism not only inflects different world systems, but also constitutes a particular world system itself.

Through publishing and translation work, curricular development, literature and the arts, the Race, Caste and Colorism group will advance the idea of colorism, knitting the globally oppressive structures of race/racism and caste/casteism together, while also accounting for the historical, religious, regional and cultural differences between them.

The group also aims to create key moments of intersection between leading and emergent artists engaging with the history, present, and future of race, caste and colorism—to develop twenty-first century versions of the political and intellectual exchanges of the mid-twentieth century that brought together people like Ambedkar and DuBois, or King and Nehru. To this end, the group will host a regular slate of activities, including artists’ and writers’ workshops, scholarly conferences and storytelling seminars, and create dedicated publishing channels for stories grounded in living in caste, race and colorism.

Group Members

Laura Brueck (Asian Languages and Cultures, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences)*

Emily Maguire (Spanish and Portuguese, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences)

Kalyan Nadiminti (English, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences)

Lakshmi Padmanabhan (Radio/Television/Film, School of Communication)

Ivy Wilson (English, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences)*


*indicates group leaders