The Rights Collective has started a reading circle, which is part of our upcoming project Brown Womxn [Un]learn (more news on this coming soon). The readings we discussed at our first session include:
Religion as World-view and Ethic by Clifford Geertz
The Doctor and The Saint by Arundhati Roy
Annihilation of Caste by B. R. Ambedkar
Our colleague and advisor, Dr. Varun Khanna, whose research sits at the intersection of Sanskrit grammar, Advaita Vedanta, and Social Justice, led and held this first session on the topic of religion; what it actually is and whether there can be a universal definition that goes beyond time, geography, and context. We challenged our understanding of religion as a category and how it relates to our work here at The Rights Collective. Dr. Khanna led us in an eye-opening discussion analysing Geertz’s definition of religion. As we discussed Asad’s analysis of Geertz, we started thinking about how religion at any point in time is deeply interlinked with the historical processes that are going on at that time.
So, in thinking about the Hindu religion in our work, we discovered that what we are actually trying to understand are the socio-political forces at play, including the underlying power systems that oppress some and privilege others. We briefly explored the conception of Hinduism before thinking about the underlying power relations we, as an organisation, were trying to address, including casteism, sexism, racism and classism. We explored what this meant in terms of the possibility for our work and briefly delivered in exploring caste in more detail at our next session.
For now, our reading circles are for The Rights Collective team members only, but if you’re interested in getting involved, please sign up to our newsletter and follow our socials to find out about the launch of Brown Womxn [Un]Learn.
Nishma Jethwa is Executive Director and a Co-Founder of The Rights Collective, a human rights lawyer, and gender rights activist based in Mumbai, India. Follow her work on Twitter @NishmaJethwa or Instagram @nishmaj.