There's been a lot of talk about caste and caste-based discrimination recently. That's good. We need to face this as a modern problem, without equivocation.

How does caste look in history? A #THREAD #caste #discrimination #history #AcademicTwitter
Historians like specifics, so:

Place: Kashmir
Time: late 14th – early 15th century CE
Politics: Sikandar Shah (r. 1389–1413), of the Sultanate of Kashmir.
Main Guy: Suha Bhatta

Suha Bhatta was born a Brahmin. He converted to Islam and was a minister of Sikandar Shah.
Source: We know about all of this from Jonaraja, another Brahmin who wrote a Rajatarangini (River of Kings), a Sanskrit history of the period in Kashmir.

[Sidenote -- If you're most familiar with Kalhana's Rajatarangini, Jonaraja's text is one of several subsequent ones.]
Jonaraja depicts Suha Bhatta in a terrible light. In terms of political history, there's much to say about whether we take Jonaraja at face value (short answer: we don't, but it's complicated). Hert I'm more interested in why Jonaraja takes a harsh view of Suha Bhatta.
Jonaraja had no objection to Suha Bhatta working for the Shah Miris (after all, Jonaraja did that too).

For Jonaraja, the issue was Suha Bhatta's violation of caste-based norms and concerns.
Jonaraja describes Suha Bhatta as being someone who “despises Brahmanical rituals” (brāhmakriyādveṣī) and “strives to abolish caste” ( jātividhvaṃse . . . kṛtodyamaḥ).
Jonaraja goes on to attribute certain state actions, including violent actions, to Suha Bhatta.

A commonality is this -- They all cut against Brahminical privilege.
Certainly, Jonaraja would have objected to anybody harming Brahminical interests, but he seems to have special contempt for one of his own doing so. As Jonaraja puts it:
The hawk kills other birds.
The lion hunts other animals.
A diamond scratches other gems.
The earth is dug by earth-digging tools.
Planets, like flowers, fade in the sun.
The rule is this: horrific harm comes from one’s own kind [sajātiyataḥ].

(Jonaraja, Rajatarangini)
Turning to modern times, why do we care about any of this? Well, as a scholar, I care for a thousand reasons, but let me give a few why you might care --
You can see varna and jati used in this passage.

Keep it in mind the next time somebody gives the bad-faith argument that there wasn't caste in premodernity.
There has been change, however. One big change is that many people today make some attempt to hide casteism, whereas Jonaraja doesn't.

For Jonaraja, inequality and defending Brahminical privileges were virtuous. He's unashamed about this.
There's far more to say. I say some of it in my most recent book, from which this research is drawn: The Language of History.

If you're interested, check it out.

US / Worldwide edition:…
Indian edition:…

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More from @AudreyTruschke

11 May
Lots of angles to this story. A short #THREAD adding context, a little history, and some preliminary thoughts...…
Front and center is caste discrimination on US soil. This serious issue isn't new. We have known about this for decades. But it is time we did far more to protect Dalits and others who suffer caste-based discrimination. #CasteInTheUS
By the way, for anybody tempted to deny caste-based discrimination as a reality of modern life or, insanely, to try to claim that pointing it out is itself discriminatory -- Don't. Just don't. Such things are highly offensive and bigoted.
Read 11 tweets
15 Apr
#Pedagogy moment --

I'm teaching History of Hinduisms (plural intentional) this term. For the final paper, I give students 4 options.

This accords with my general emphasis that students should work on topics they care about. Interest (if possible, passion) are critical. #THREAD
Option 1. Close reading of a specific text

I give students a list of possible texts (from the Rig Veda forward). We read excerpts over the semester from most of the texts on the list. Students can return to a text that caught their eye, read more, and analyze.
Option 2. Traditional research paper

Pick a topic, any topic, at all related to Hinduism and write a paper about it. This can be a subject we covered in class that caught a student's attention. It can also be a subject that we didn't cover in the class (which is a lot, always).
Read 8 tweets
13 Apr
Here we have a board member of the Hindu American Foundation -- known to promote Hindutva ideology in the US -- employing aa anti-Semitic trope to attack the authors of a recent opinion piece on human rights abuses in India.

Links in the #THREAD
On the anti-Semitism of attacks on Soros and his philanthropic work:…
On Hindu nationalists' use of anti-Semitic ideas, language, and tropes:…
Read 5 tweets
12 Apr
At my talk earlier today on the Doha Ramayana, there were some questions we didn't have time to answer. So, a #THREAD of Q and A here.

Image is the opening page of this magnificent manuscript, now at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. #Ramayana #Mughal #Persian Image
Q: Is there any evidence of struggle in translation from Sanskrit into Farsi. Are there cases when they couldn't find equivalents so used the Sanskrit words in Farsi?
A: There are lots of Sanskrit terms retained and transliterated in the Akbari Ramayan, including the Doha manuscript.

Usually, I think it was an aesthetic choice, to retain something of the flavor of the original (mediated through vernacular Hindi pronunciation).
Read 13 tweets
6 Apr
Huge and important question. Academics have a wide variety of tools designed to deal with this. An impromptu #THREAD
One, you have to identify possible biases. This involves knowing, a lot, about the history of ideas, one's particular disciplines, one's areas of study, etc.

Often, biases have gone, well, sort of transnational and across identity boundaries. One example --
How we define religion, often, carries extensive Protestant biases. You may never have set foot inside a church and you may know nothing about Christianity, but you probably have these biases due to their widespread diffusion.

Those of us who work on religion learn & teach this.
Read 12 tweets
13 Mar
This sort of sentiment reflects a common misunderstanding about the academic study of religion.

So, let's do what we do as scholars -- Treat this as a teachable moment.

A short #THREAD
We want to distinguish two different contexts --

Practicing a religion.
Academically studying a religion.

There is overlap in the sense that practitioners can also engage in the academic study of their religion. But the two contexts are different, with distinct precepts.
First -- Practitioners. Most people encounter religion in in this context, at temple, in church, at mosque, or in home practices.

Commonly (although far from always), there is an assumption to have a voice in this context, you should be a member of the given religious group.
Read 12 tweets

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