How to See the Caste


Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Institute for Asian and African Studies, Gender and Media Studies for the South Asian Region
Wednesdays 12:00 – 14:00 (CET)
15 Weeks (25.10.2023 - 14.02.2024)


While castes have been around for more than 3000 years, their evolving nature makes it imperative to understand them better, as they play a crucial role in the problems that South Asia in general, and India in particular have been facing. In contemporary India, violence against the Dalits, patriarchy and gender subjugation, communitarian apathy and hatred, national jingoism, authoritarian politics and the persecution of minorities have been rooted in the dynamics of caste. This course provides an overview of the presence of castes in Hindi films, and their approach towards the system by focusing on feature films and documentaries. At the same time, it will provide an understanding of how the films also play a role in the dynamics of castes that inform Indian society today. The course combines three segments of studies to structure the lectures: i) a brief history and contemporary understanding of caste; ii) cinema, visual cultures and the question of representation; iii) anti-caste movements and cinematic interventions. In each class selected movie clips will be shown and analyzed to understand how caste is embedded in the Hindi film and media culture. The aim is to provide an in-depth overview of the subject so that it will be helpful for beginner students who might want to study it further, as well as those in advanced stages.


To provide a general understanding about:

• Indian Caste system in historical perspective

• Hindi Cinema

• Caste and Cinema Culture

• Caste and its relationship to gender


A full outline of the course syllabus can be found here.


foto credit: Lena Herzog

Reyazul Haque studied at the School of Arts and Aesthetics for his Masters and M.Phil., where his academic interests centred around Ambedkerite and Brechtian methods of transformations. A bachelor in Spanish, and a theatre practitioner Haque has also worked as a journalist and editor at prestigious media and publishing houses in India. He has been associated with the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO) as an academic fellow, and is currently pursuing his doctoral thesis on India’s depiction in DDR newsreels. He regularly translates Arundhati Roy and Anand Teltumbde, among others.


Julia Strutz is one of the co-initiators of Off-University and a sociologist (HU Berlin), historian (Bilgi University Istanbul) and urban geographer (KU Leuven) by training. She conducts research in the fields of memory politics, urban renewal, the urban history of Istanbul, and the various ways this history gains importance in heritage and non-heritage contexts today. More recently, this has led her to a transregional investigation into the idea of the mahalle/mahalla/mohalla/mahalleh as a repertoire of living together in cities. She works at the Institute for Asian and African Studies at Humboldt-University in the exploration research project "Beyond Social Cohesion - Repertoires of Living Together (RePLITO)" where she coordinates the cooperation with Off-University in different digital teaching, publishing and research formats.

This course is held at the Institute for Asian and African Studies, Gender and Media Studies for the South Asian Region at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and supported by the explorative research project "Beyond Social Cohesion - Repertoires of Living Together (RePLITO)" funded in the framework of the Grand Challenge Initiative Social Cohesion by the Berlin University Alliance (2021-2024).