The Moral Cost of Caste

JD Hoyt

The Moral Cost of Caste

October 23, 2023 / 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm / Add to Google
820 Social Sciences Building

The feature of Indian society is the operational existence of antiquated caste values. Though outlawed in the second half of the last century, caste continues to exist because it has carried historical amnesia for those who have attached existentialism to the past — Sanatan— unchanging pure belief.

Caste found its way into society because it had reasons to operate by a dogmatic sanction. Caste did not begin its function or role as a direct response to something. Caste is basically a nature of society that has seen dominating forces interacting with each other. These forces were religious sentiments rising through epochal exchanges with culture and society. Sometimes, they conflicted with each other; at other times, they faced each other. During this face-off, various cultural advances took place.

In this talk, we will take a look at these various advances. One of the first advancements was in the domain of societal intimacy. Societal intimacy was predicated on the preservation of endogamy. The second was the commerce of political economy, which was mostly centred around agrarian classes. Thus, the rise of relations of dominance, control, and untouchability advanced alongside the sanction of moral laws of Hindu scriptural evidence of Antya (end of the civilization, i.e. village), Antyaja (those living outside the village) and Bahyas (out/caste) Antyavasin (outed). The moral quotient of caste continued to receive challenges at the hands of reformers and seers. Yet, the moral cost of caste did not surpass caste morality.

Dr. Suraj Yengde (सुरज एंगडे) is one of India’s leading scholars and public intellectuals. Named as one of the “25 Most Influential Young Indian” by GQ magazine and the “Most influential Young Dalit” by Zee, Suraj is an author of the bestseller Caste Matters and co-editor of award winning anthology The Radical in Ambedkar. Caste Matters was recently featured in the prestigious “Best Nonfiction Books of the Decade” list by The Hindu. Caste Matters is being translated in seven languages.

Suraj holds a research associate position with the department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. Suraj’s recent appointment was Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, a non-resident fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, and was part of the founding team of Initiative for Institutional Anti-Racism and Accountability (IARA) at Harvard University. He has studied in four continents (Asia, Africa, Europe, North America), and is India’s first Dalit Ph.D. holder from an African university (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg). Originally from Nanded, he is an International Human Rights attorney by qualification from India and the UK.

His profile in Marathi language can be viewed here and here.


Established in 2014, the Tolerance Lectures are generously sponsored by the Endowed Fund for the Study of Religious Tolerance.

Presented by the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion.

Co-presented by the Asian American Research Center, the Center for Race and Gender, and the Institute for South Asia Studies.

Admission Information

Social Science Matrix is ADA-accessible via the east entrance of the Social Sciences Building and Elevator 2, which goes directly to the 8th floor. Please view this website for more details about accessing the Social Sciences Building. If you require an accommodation for effective communication (ASL interpreting/CART captioning, alternative media formats, etc.) or information about campus mobility access features in order to fully participate in this event,  please contact Patty Dunlap at with as much advance notice as possible and at least 7-10 days in advance of the event.