through its appearance as gendered, admits of possibilities that have been forcibly foreclosed by the various reifications of gender that have constituted its contingent ontologies. (Butler 1990: 33)
In order to resist the reification of caste (and its simultaneous disavowal), we need -^c to open ourselves to the elaboration a social critique based on caste identity politics, a critique that should enable the transformation of our institutions. More work needs to be done before the conceptual features and political strategies of the new theory can emerge from an interpretive engagement with the caste practices and struggles that surround us. And more, certainly, needs to be said about the role that a feminist theory, itself concerned with the problems of caste politics, can play in clarifying the as yet ill-formed conceptuality of a theory of caste practice. And it would, of course, be a challenge to feminist theory too to deconstruct the 'proper' subject of feminist politics in order to address the gendered articulations of caste practices.7 We can, I think, productively ask if it is possible to think of caste politics as identity politics? Will it encounter problems similar to the ones encountered by feminist identity politics? Can one analogously talk about a politics which is a particular interpretation of caste experience? Caste politics (like gender politics) would be a practical critique. It would transform itself in transforming the relationships and institutions. For feminist theory is not about gender oppression alone; it is concerned with elaborating a politics, new ways of being, of being together. What would be the equivalent for caste politics—how dowe name this theory?
This is a revised version of my presentation at the workshop on 'Caste and Gender/ organized by Anveshi Research Centre for Women's Studies (Hyderabad, February 1992). Conversations with K. Satyanarayana and Srividya Natarajan helped me formulate many of the issues discussed here. R. Srivatsan and Tejaswini Niranjana offered useful comments on an earlier draft. The usual caveat applies.
1. Balibar (1991: 53) notes that this thesis is neither Kantian nor Hegelian. For an elaboration of the argument deployed here, see Dhareshwar and Srivatsan 1993.
2. I have taken the formulation from Unger (1987: passim).
3. Think how hard it would be to come up with examples of caste abuse in English. I am sure though that we will soon have (if the anti-Mandal agitation has not already done so) specifically English caste abuses.
4. See Kaviraj 1990: 12. The complex logic of the mutual imbrication of and the opposition between subaltern and 61ite idioms is explored by Partha Chatterjee (1993).
5. I have in mind the typical scenarios that one saw during the anti-Mandal agitation in which upper-caste faculty swapped stories and anecdotes about their experience with 'SC/ST students. I thank K. Satyanarayana for helping me see how the 'slippage' occurs.
6. I do not wish to suggest that it is voluntary. The double semiotics was in operation when the students agitating against the implementation of the Mandal Commission Report took to street-sweeping to register their protest. At another level, the intensity and the violence of the agitation (the self-immolations, especially) can be accounted for in terms of the logic of the double