Studying and Teaching Gender-Caste Histories in India

Problems, Possibilities, and Pleasures


  • Charu Gupta University of Delhi



Caste, Classroom, Dalit, Delhi University, Gender, History, Pedagogy


Amid a larger context of political and social changes in India, this article reflects on a personal-academic trajectory and the problems, possibilities, and pleasures of teaching and researching histories of gender and caste in modern India at the University of Delhi for more than three decades. As a feminist historian, the author first points to some of the limitations in her early years of teaching courses on gender, where she occluded caste as a category of analysis. However, an examination of the conjunctions between anti-caste thought and gender through a Dalit feminist pedagogical lens led to shifts in her curriculum and academic scholarship. The article goes on to discuss how preparing and teaching courses on gender-caste histories pose many challenges in terms of queries from the university administration, curriculum design, pedagogic practices, and student responses. Classroom spaces are highly politicized in India, with pronounced gender, caste, class, and linguistic identities that often overlap with each other, which has implications for teaching and research. Finally, the article deliberates on the creative possibilities of such courses and pedagogical strategies, as students critique the crafting of mainstream history writing, feel drawn to new theoretical tools and methodologies that rely on different archival registers, and question the erasure of caste as an analytic, in the process also making the classroom a more democratic space.

Author Biography

Charu Gupta, University of Delhi

Charu Gupta is a senior professor in the Department of History, University of Delhi. The focus of her work is gender, sexuality, masculinity, caste, religious identities, and vernacular literatures in early twentieth-century north India. Her publications include three monographs, Sexuality, Obscenity, Community: Women, Muslims and the Hindu Public in Colonial India (2001), The Gender of Caste: Representing Dalits in Print (2016), and Contested Coastlines: Fisherfolk, Nations and Borders in South Asia (2008, co-authored); and three edited collections, Gendering Colonial India: Reforms, Print, Caste and Communalism (2012), Caste and Life Narratives (2019, coedited), and Literary Sentiments in the Vernacular: Gender and Genre in Modern South Asia (2021, coedited). She is presently working on social histories of particular genres and subjects through life narratives in Hindi in the early twentieth century.




How to Cite

Charu Gupta. (2023). Studying and Teaching Gender-Caste Histories in India: Problems, Possibilities, and Pleasures. Proceedings of the H-Net Teaching Conference, 1(1), 26–34.