Centre for the Study of Discrimination and Exclusion
School of Social Sciences


Cordially invites paper for the International Conference on

Marginality(ies), Minor(ity) Cultures and Identities

Date: 16th-17th January, 2017
Venue: Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Concept Note:
The concept of marginality has endured a chequered history due to lack precision and disparate usage. Simmel's "stranger" and Park and Stonequist's "marginal man" are classic examples of open marginality as exemplified by religious, caste, racial, linguistic, ethnic and nationality groups. Opposed to "open" marginality, individuals who are standing in the interstices between or among groups, who share a feeling of both belonging and not-belonging to particular groups, or who do not feel that the label of margin fits them, or their feelings but are systemizing and rationalising their feelings in terms of socially-given definition are seen as the bearer of "secret" marginality by David Reisman. It suggests that conditions for marginality are ubiquitous but always exist with some degree of difference and change. This seminar will explore an amorphous dichotomy of secret and open marginality by addressing those societal conditions, influences, and agents which are conducive in transforming subjective/private to objective/public marginality(ies) but, without undermining the secret marginalities that an individual observes on a quotidian basis.

Ethnic identity is a product of classification of people according to their origins however; cultural and symbolic content accretes to the classification. Convergence of numbers and origin based classification shapes the dichotomy of ethnic majority and minority in the modern nation-state. Apart from statistics, stereotypes, rumours, memories of communal violence and myths are the potential agents of the construction thus, trimming the dichotomy. But it is important to construe that how meanings are created, prevailed and persisted in day-to-day life. Explicit and implicit ordeals of invisibilization, victimization, discrimination may be reinforcing the notion of open and secrete marginality respectively, but what is latent, is how certain knowledge percolates as "self-evident" without a rigour of objective methodology.

In view of this, an attempt will be made to understand the concept of minority which is invariably gauged through experiences of the (un)wanted memories of territorial violence, communal riots, threats, discrimination and exclusion from the economic, political and social life along with feeling of marginality. This brings to a pertinent question, as to how to explain diversity among ethnic minorities in India, is violence the necessary concomitant attribute in the formation of minority, if not, then what are other attributes? How do ethnic categories arise in social situations, become meaningful to the participants and relate to each other? Finally, the proposed seminar attempts to promote a discursive practice in the understanding of marginalities, ethnic minority(ies) and thus, minor culture(s).

Sub-themes of the seminar:
• Stereotypes , prejudices and identity formation
• Critical thinking on religious content of ethnic minority
• History and the conceptual discourse of minority
• Collective memories of communal violence
• Formation of categories and idea of marginalilty


Convener: Dr. Rosina Nasir (CSDE), Assistant Professor, Centre for the Study of Discrimination and Exclusion, Jawaharlal Nehru University.