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Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

Race, Caste, and Colorism

The goal of the Race, Caste, and Colorism Working Group is 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. Our aim is to help foment an institutional and intellectual shift 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. We also want to create key moments of intersection and connection for leading and emergent artists and scholars and writers engaging with the history, present, and future of race, caste, and colorism to develop a twenty-first century version of the transnational field of political and intellectual exchanges in the mid-twentieth century that brought together people like Ambedkar and DuBois, or King and Nehru.

About the Project


We begin with the premise that color and colorism form the grammar that underwrites various modes of social stratification through the imperatives of caste, racial formation, and coloniality. Colorism creates regulatory forms of consciousness (categories such as light and dark, good and evil, enlightened and unenlightened, for example) that manifest locally but persist globally. We understand that the persistence of color and colorism not only inflects different world-systems of political economies, colonial structures, or imperial networks, among others, but also constitutes a particular world-system itself. With a primary focus on the U.S., South Asia, and the Caribbean/Latin America, we seek to advance the umbrella of colorism as a provocation and an invitation to knit the globally oppressive structures of race/racism and caste/casteism together, while also accounting for the historical, religious, regional, and cultural differences between them.


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