Priyadarshini Vijaisri

Associate Professor

Priyadarshini Vijaisri is a historian engaged in researching the cultural histories of ‘outcastes’. Her doctoral research at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, was on the multiple patterns of sacred prostitution in colonial south India. She is currently engaged in ethno-historical research on the cognitive system of ideas and cultural practices that signify the exceptional being of outcastes.

Vijaisri’s book, Dangerous Marginality: Rethinking Impurity and Power, offers a frame for alternative ways of writing caste/outcaste histories, the caste structure, and the boundaries in caste societies. Her research focuses on the myths about the origin of outcastes to discern the general structure of meanings and motifs surrounding untouchability. This study is based on comparative evidence for understanding untouchability in the Indian context, especially in South Asia and Africa. This project further explores possibilities of this comparative civilizational analysis to discern the different cultural conceptions of untouchability as having origins in practices and cultural conceptions surrounding death, contagion, and danger. These cultural conceptions are further explored in comparison with Tribal communities of the Eastern Ghats. She is also engaged in another related project on the nature of violence in caste societies. This study seeks to explore the ways in which violence is inseparable from conceptions of sacred and self and how these in varied ways engage with beliefs or ideas of purity and pollution.

Vijaisri was a visiting Fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden in 2005, and a Fellow at the Nantes Institute for Advanced Studies in 2011-12.

Email: vijaisri(at)csds.in