Ground Down by Growth: Tribe, Caste, Class and Inequality in 21st Century India by Alpa Shah

This event is in collaboration with the Department of Anthropology, Department of Asian Studies, South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD)David Lam Centre (SFU), School for International Studies (SFU), Institute for the Humanities (SFU), and Indian Summer Festival


Alpa Shah presents her co-authored ‘Ground Down by Growth: Tribe, Caste, Class and Inequality in 21st Century India’, listed as a 2018 Book of the Year by The Hindu newspaper. While the world marvels at India’s economic growth rates, inequality is rising and the country’s ‘untouchable’ and ‘tribal’ communities – who make up a staggering one in twenty-five people across the globe – remain at the bottom of the economic and social hierarchy. How and why is this the case? In conversation with economists, a team of anthropologists lived with Adivasis (‘tribes’) and Dalits (‘untouchables’) in five different sites across India to answer this question. They show how capitalism is entrenching social difference, transforming traditional forms of identity-based discrimination into new mechanisms of exploitation and oppression. Inherited inequalities of power are merging with the super-exploitation of migrant labour, and the conjugated oppression of class, caste, tribe and gender. The struggles against these inequalities are considered.


Alpa Shah was raised in Nairobi, read Geography at Cambridge and completed her PhD in Anthropology at the London School of Economics, where she now teaches as Associate Professor. She is the author of Nightmarch (a finalist for the 2019 Orwell Prize for Political Writing, a 2018 Book of the Year for the New Statesman, the Scroll and History Workshop, a Hindu Year in Review Book and a Hong Kong Free Press Best Human Rights Book), In the Shadows of the State (2010) and Ground Down by Growth (2018) which is co-authored with Jens Lerche, Richard Axelby, Dalel Benbabaali, Brendan Donegan, Jayaseelan Raj and Vikramaditya Thakur. She has reported for BBC Radio 4 and the World Service and co-curated the photo exhibition, Behind the Indian Boom.

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