Listen to the B.R. Ambedkar Podcast

January 7, 2021 – Topics of Interest

PRODUCTION AND DESIGN: KHADIJA HUSSAIN, SAM NEEDLEMAN, KATHERINE VANDERMEL

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“We started [the Ambedkar Initiative] in 2018—about a century after B.R. Ambedkar studied at Columbia University. This is a project of critical commemoration, which thinks about the distinctive legacies of a figure who stretched ideas of democracy and equality in fundamentally new directions … But we also want to think about how Ambedkar’s own intellectual formation might open up new ways to understand the history of the University. ”

Cover image: mapping a biography. Interact here.

Read the full transcript of the podcasts here.

Duration: 20:04
In this introduction to the Ambedkar Initiative Podcast Series, Barnard College senior Khadija Hussain interviews History Professor Anupama Rao and recent Columbia College graduate Priya Pai about what the Ambedkar Initiative seeks to accomplish with this series. Professor Rao, who founded the Ambedkar Initiative, is Associate Professor of History and MESAAS; Associate Director, ICLS; and Senior Editor of Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Priya Pai, who has been co-leading the digital efforts of the Ambedkar Initiative, graduated from Columbia in May with a degree in Computer Science and English Literature, with a focus on postcolonial narratives and the Indian interwar period. She currently works at the University of Chicago Poverty Lab as a data research assistant. She is interested in the digital humanities and data science in social contexts.


Courtesy of Prakash Vishwasrao,  Dr. Babasahab Ambedkar  (Mumbai: Lok Vangmay, 2007.)

Courtesy of Prakash Vishwasrao, Dr. Babasahab Ambedkar (Mumbai: Lok Vangmay, 2007.)

Duration: 18:02

In this episode of the Ambedkar Initiative Podcast Series, Master’s student Layla Varkey interviews Columbia College senior Yosan Alemu on Yosan’s experience annotating Ambedkar’s 1916 essay “Castes in India.” At Columbia, Yosan studies Comparative Literature, focusing on the African Diaspora and Blackness as a category for thought and thinking. She was drawn to Ambedkar’s analysis of caste in relation to race, gender, and sexuality. In her annotations of “Castes in India,” she pays close attention to Ambedkar’s analysis of casteism through the lens of gender and sexuality, as well as the notion of ‘surplus man and woman’ that Ambedkar introduces.


Courtesy of Prakash Vishwasrao,  Dr. Babasahab Ambedkar  (Mumbai: Lok Vangmay, 2007.)

Courtesy of Prakash Vishwasrao, Dr. Babasahab Ambedkar (Mumbai: Lok Vangmay, 2007.)

Duration: 13:52

In this episode of the Ambedkar Initiative Podcast Series, Columbia College graduate Tommy Song interviews Augustus O’Connor on Gus’s experience annotating Ambedkar’s 1916 essay “Castes in India.” Gus paid close attention to the ways in which the contemporary social sciences affected and influenced Ambedkar’s thinking. Gus hails from Sewickley, Pennsylvania, and he graduated from Columbia College in May with a degree in English. He is particularly interested in post-conflict and postcolonial literature and theory. Gus was recently awarded a Fulbright, which will take him to Vietnam, where he will travel in January to teach English to university students.


Photograph by Anupama Rao

Photograph by Anupama Rao

Duration: 13:16

In this episode of the Ambedkar Initiative Podcast Series, Master’s student Kyle Zarif interviews Rohini Shukla on her work this summer examining the experience of Indian students (including Ambedkar) as they shaped and were shaped by Columbia’s institutional and intellectual history. Rohini is a second-year Ph.D. student in Columbia’s Department of Religion, hailing from Pune, India. She is currently preparing to study the American Marathi Mission archives at The Burke Library.


Indu Mill Complex, Mumbai, Photograph by Anupama Rao

Indu Mill Complex, Mumbai, Photograph by Anupama Rao

Duration: 20:51

In this episode of the Ambedkar Initiatives Podcast Series, Ph.D. student Rohini Shukla interviews Layla Varkey on her work this summer examining the reception of Gandhian politics in Black intellectual circles in the postwar period. Layla is a student in the Dual MA/MSc in International History at Columbia and the London School of Economics, studying 20th century histories of communism, gender and sexuality in Kerala.


Courtesy of Prakash Vishwasrao,  Dr. Babasahab Ambedkar  (Mumbai: Lok Vangmay, 2007.)

Courtesy of Prakash Vishwasrao, Dr. Babasahab Ambedkar (Mumbai: Lok Vangmay, 2007.)

Duration: 15:56

In this episode of the Ambedkar Initiative Podcast Series, recent Columbia College graduate Augustus O’Connor interviews classmate Tommy Song on his work this summer creating the Ambedkar Digital Archive, which will make all the documents from his and others’ research thus far available to the public. Tommy graduated from Columbia this past May, where he majored in history and political science. He has been working for the Ambedkar Initiative since last June, conducting archival research in several repositories for Dr. Ambedkar’s letters, essays, and more.


Photograph by Anupama Rao

Photograph by Anupama Rao

Duration: 17:09

In this episode of the Ambedkar Initiative’s podcast series, Columbia College graduate Augustus O’Connor interviews Columbia College junior Sam Needleman on his work this summer curating a narrative map of New York based on the Ambedkar Initiative team’s archival research. Sam studies History and Latin American and Iberian Cultures, with an interdisciplinary focus on the urban. Twentieth-century New York is one of his primary research interests.


The Ambedkar Initiative Podcast Series is a project of the Ambedkar Initiative at the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University, with support from the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement.

Production and Design Team: Khadija Hussain, Sam Needleman, Katherine Vandermel

All rights reserved by the Ambedkar Initiative. If you wish to circulate, please email Tommy Song at ms5340@columbia.edu. We are happy to provide permission on request.

January 7, 2021


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