The Prejudice of the Modern


Gyanendra Pandey in News Click (via Vijay Prashad):

Prejudice is cunning. It never appears to the subject or actor as prejudice: it is only ‘others’ who are prejudiced.

And it affects different groups and people in different ways. There are various guises in which modern prejudice masks itself: allowing sectional prejudice (what I call vernacular, visible prejudice) to be disparaged once in a while, but at the same time protecting the ‘common sense’ of our times, the beliefs of those in power (what I call universal, invisible prejudice) from being questioned.

I’ve just written a book that traces the history of modern prejudice, through an investigation of two major formal democracies, the United States and India. In both these countries there is a similar historical process for the social and political distancing of stigmatized, and marginalized populations – such as African Americans and Dalits (or ex-Untouchables). It is of course the case that the older histories of subordination are not shared between African Americans (who only enter into specific modes of modern discrimination and prejudice with plantation slavery) and Dalits (whose much longer history of subordination goes back to Vedic days, although reshaped over the centuries into its modern form). The juxtaposition of these two locations and two histories allows us a rare view of the workings of prejudice in our times.