About “Caste in Canada”

Photograph of interview with Manjit and Surjit Bains, with Dr. Anne Murphy, Feb 2023. Courtesy of Jai Birdi, Chetna Association of Canada.

Learn more about the project through this recorded talk, from 27 October 2023.

This website presents the results of an oral history research program among university and community partners that investigates Dalit (those deemed “untouchables” in the caste system of South Asia) individual and community histories within Canada’s past and present. The research focuses on the lower mainland of British Columbia, with additional interviews from other parts of Canada. Special attention is paid to locations where Dalits have established religious, cultural, social and political organizations, and to the people who made these organizations happen. For the project, we have completed interviews with nineteen Canadians of Dalit background to document their histories, experiences, and understanding of the implications of caste in Canada. The videos presented here represent a sub-section of the interviews completed, representing the preferences of project Narrators in granting public access to the interviews. The interviews will also be made available on cIRcle, UBC library’s content management system, and the South Asian Canadian Digital Archive.

Dalit stories are often overlooked in the broader public imagination and historical and social science research; this oral history program represents an important first step towards the inclusion of the Dalit experience in our understanding of South Asian Canadian experience.

The Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha is a Dalit religious institution. Photo courtesy of Anita Lal.

Primary Investigators: Dr. Anne Murphy (UBC) and Dr. Suraj Yengde (Oxford)

Community Partners: The Chetna Association of Canada

Additional Academic Partner: South Asian Studies Institute, University of the Fraser Valley

Supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Engage grant, with additional support from the Dr. Hari Sharma Foundation and the Centre for India and South Asia Research (UBC).

This project builds on a set of partnerships that has, since 2017, sponsored the Dr. Ambedkar Memorial Lecture at UBC and SFU. Partners in that project include the Institute of Humanities, SFU; the Dr. Hari Sharma Foundation; the Chetna Association of Canada, and, at UBC, the Centre for India and South Asia Research; the Institute of Asian Research/School of Public Policy and Global Affairs; The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhism and Contemporary Society; the Department of Asian Studies, and the Department of History.

“Caste in Canada”

Banner image: Collage of photographs, from left to right, interview of Surjit and Manjit Bains with Dr. Anne Murphy (courtesy of Jai Birdi); the Guru Ravidas Sabha Vancouver (courtesy of Anita Lal); Kamaljit, participant in the project; portrait of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar by Raghavendra Rao Karkala, now in the collection of the University of the Fraser Valley Library (acrylic on canvas); Mohan Lal Karimpuri, author and activist; Vipasna Nanal, project participant and video interview editor.