5 Books To Understand Caste Issues, From Navayana

Recommended reads from the independent, anti-caste publishing house


21 Nov 2020

Deriving its name from Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s anti-metaphysical interpretation of Buddhism, Delhi-based publishing house Navayana focuses on the “issue of caste from an anti-caste lens”. Founded in November 2003 by S. Anand and Ravikumar, Navayana publishes general and academic non-fiction, illustrated books, poetry and literary translations, and is best known for its books on and by Ambedkar. 

The independent publishing house’s logo — a pair of kissing buffaloes — was designed by artist Chandru and sought inspiration from an excerpt from Aravind Malagatti’s autobiography in Kannada, ‘Government Brahmana’ — a story about how the ideology of caste does not allow a Dalit-owned she-buffalo to mate with a he-buffalo owned by a landlord.

Speaking of book lists, Anand — who does not like choosing one title over another — says, “Navayana renews itself each time it offers the world a book. Each book is an arrow with no calculable target apart from causing a new vital wound of thinking. Each new book is a kick of life: no book is less urgent than any other, no book more urgent.” Here, he shares five reads from their roster of published titles.

‘Bhimayana: Experiences of Untouchability’ by Srividya Natarajan, S. Anand, Durgabai Vyam and Subhash Vyam (2011)

Marching towards its tenth anniversary since it was first published, this graphic-format book introduces Dr B R Ambedkar and his experience with and struggle against untouchability. With powerful art by Durgabai Vyam and Subhash Vyam, Pardhan Gond artists, it is based on Ambedkar’s autobiographical notes, Waiting for a Visa. With a foreword by John Berger, the book has been translated into various languages such as Telugu, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, French, Korean and Spanish.

Shop here

‘Annihilation of Caste: The Annotated Critical Edition’ by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar (2014)

Dr Ambedkar self-published this book on 15 May 1936. Fortified by a powerful introduction titled The Doctor and the Saint by Arundhati Roy, this critical annotated edition is a must-read for anyone keen to understand the workings of caste inequality in India.

Shop here

‘Republic of Caste: Thinking Equality in the Time of Neoliberal Hindutva’ by Anand Teltumbde (2018)

Anand Teltumbde, chronicler of civil rights issues, currently arrested under the lawless UAPA [Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act], offers a new map of post-Independence India through this book. Teltumbde’s damning analysis shows that progressive politics is the way out of the present impasse.

Shop here

‘Ganja–Mahua Chronicles’ by Venkat Raman Singh Shyam and S. Anand (2019)

How does one bridge the distance between word and image? Written as an autobiography in a wonderfully devised jugalbandi between the artist Venkat Raman Singh Shyam and his soulmate Anand, it charts an unexplored textual territory of narration in a dual voice. The delightful illustrations combine diverse linguistic modes, and allow the factual and magical passages of the journeys to sparkle with an unusual incandescence.

Shop here

‘Now It’s Come To Distances: Notes on Coronavirus and Shaheen Bagh, Association and Isolation’ by Soumyabrata Choudhury (2020)

Philosopher and teacher at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Soumyabrata Choudhury asks if there can be social distancing in a society to which one does not belong. This latest title from Navayana traces the challenge posed by an incandescent and immortal association such as the recent protests at Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi, in the face of a dictatorship of mortals that rose with the pandemic.

Shop here

Author

  • Nupur Joshi Thanks’s father worked in the public sector for most of his life and then in the private sector before starting his own business at the age of 59. Nupur says of the man who is her biggest inspiration,

Tell us what you think? Drop us a line.

More stories for you

Thinking Aloud

Making Space for Anger

By Deepti Sharma
Thinking Aloud

A Generation Graduates Online

By Ekisha Poddar
Thinking Aloud

Lockdowns and Long Drives

By Jose
Thinking Aloud

To Homeschool or Not?

By Gretchen Ferrao Walker and Aditi Elassery

Thinking Aloud

Friendship Break-Ups are Just as Hard

By Anjali Kamat

Culture & Society

How to Prioritise A Sense of Well-Being and Keep Going

By Fabiola Monteiro and Madhav Nair
Culture & Society

In Conversation with Paul Salopek

By Khorshed Deboo

Like what you’re reading?

For freshly published stories on design and culture, subscribe to our newsletter.