I have published in Associated Computing Machinery (ACM) venues like Human-Computer Interaction and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, in addition to writing journalistic and public facing pieces. I have organized panels and presented at different conferences across information science, feminist studies, anthropology, science and technology studies. I am an active member of some incredible anti-caste communities with whom I have the privilege of organizing, theorizing and imagining Dalit futures. I am also a creative writer and I’m always looking to collaborate and expand my scholarship to new venues and spaces!
Recent work in HCI has shed light on structural issues of inequality in computing. Building on this work, this study analyzes the relatively understudied phenomenon of caste in computing. Contrary to common rhetorics of ‘castelessness,’ we show how computing worlds in India and Indian diasporic communities continue to be shaped and inflected by caste relations. We study how, when and where Dalits (formerly ‘untouchables’) encounter caste in computing. We show how they artfully navigate these caste inscriptions by interpreting, interrupting and ambiguating caste and by finding caste communities. Drawing on the life stories of 16 Dalit engineers and anti-caste, queer-feminist and critical race theories, we argue that a dynamic and performative approach to caste, and other forms of inequality in HCI and computing, emphasizes the artfulness and agency of those at the margins as they challenge structural inequality in everyday life. Lastly, we suggest practical ways of addressing caste to build more open and inclusive cultures of global computing.
Data collection on the population is a key mode of public health management in the Global South where this information is seen as a means to improve health metrics through welfare programs. Anganwadi workers, widely seen as daycare providers and community health workers, are increasingly being asked to exclusively serve as collectors of data on the population. In this study, we examine the changes in the infrastructure of a welfare program in India with the introduction of an ICT-based Real-Time Monitoring System. We ask the question ‘cui bono?’ to this system by drawing attention to the precarious positionality of Anganwadi workers whose care-work is subjected to standardization through this app for ‘efficient’ monitoring by the Indian state but remains contingent on their relationship with the local community and ability to mobilize resources on the ground. Using auto-ethnographic and interview methods, we find that Anganwadi workers are caught between conflicting demands of state bureaucracy that anonymizes caring for its subjects in the form of statistics and the situated nature of care work on the ground producing forms of ambivalent care. An overlaying of a technological reimagination of service delivery on an existing unequal structure of class and labor in India works to the detriment of the anganwadi workers, and in turn, to the very quality of data the projects seek to improve. We conclude that the real-time monitoring apps end up serving the state’s need for performing care through the myth of data-driven efficiency at the expense of the professional and personal well-being of the workers, and arguably the communities they serve.
Twitter is increasingly important for political outreach and networking around the world. While electoral politics and social relations in India are heavily organized by caste, a broader rhetoric of castelessness among upper-caste politicians has led to the eschewing of caste publicly to appear strategically secular. This has rendered caste dynamics more implicit than explicit. Social media, often cited as a tool for inclusion, offers a unique look into the networks of covert exclusion. Our study analyzes three structural properties of the Twitter network of Members of Parliament in India - influence, bridging capital, and mutual connectivity, to understand how caste manifests as social capital in the information economy. Our results show that those higher in the caste hierarchy are structurally poised for higher social capital through higher influence, incoming bridging capital, and higher propensity for mutual connections with other MPs in the network. Our study offers a methodological window into these invisible relations to show how structural advantages of Brahmanical supremacy are being co-produced and stabilized on social media at the highest level of politics.
The Hindu caste system plays an important role in the socio-political landscape of India. In recent years, Indian politicians have moved a lot of direct communication online. Social media is now an important space for the articulation and performance of their political positions. In this paper, we study ways in which the political performance of caste relations can be captured from the online connections and messaging of parliamentarians in India. We run tests of odds ratios among the members of LokSabha (lower house) of India to find the extent to which their engagement is insular to their own caste group versus other groups. We observe that in the LokSabha network, Members of Parliament (MPs) have higher odds of getting retweeted by others whose caste is the same or closer to their own in the caste hierarchy. The findings of this research shed light on an understudied, yet critical, social relation of caste in the study of political behavior on social media.
Paper accepted to the Triangulating Race, Capital and Technology workshop at CHI 2022 in New Orleans.
Co-authored paper in CSCW2018 Workshop on Solidarity Across Borders.
Paper in CSCW2016 Workshop on Imagining Intersectional Futures.
Paper presentation at the Fifth International Conference on the Unfinished Legacy of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar
Presentation at 4S2019 Panel on Technology, Inequality and Social Justice.
Despite its continued importance as an analytical category in the social life of South Asia, and south asians globally, caste as a lens or a category of analysis has historically remained relatively undertheorized in the social studies of science and technology. If at all, caste has largely figured as an identity category in extant work. Can reframing the study of caste as a study of technoscience improve our engagements with caste as a social category as well as that of the social study of science and technology? What conceptual and methodological toolkit would such a move need? How are caste and technoscience intertwined? Is caste an historically morphing assemblage which shapeshifts as new sociotechnical arrangements become possible/are enabled by it? If so, what new ways of thinking about caste are enabled when we approach ‘caste’ as technoscience? And vice versa, what new ways of thinking about technoscience are enabled as we think about ‘technoscience’ as caste? This panel invites papers that work with caste not only in axes of identity vis a vis technoscientific worlds but also think through caste as technoscience. These may range from case studies of sociotechnical assemblages that converge around different kinds of “work,” debates around labour and caste relations, discursive efforts towards castelessness in the name of “merit,” to theoretical pieces that reflect on methodological concerns on the matter which address the co-construction and reification of the caste system through technoscientific practices, imagination and rhetoric in different communities of South Asia and its diaspora.
Media & Press
- Birds of Brahmanical Feather Flock Together: How MPs Reinforce a Casteist Network on Twitter
- Dalit MPs less likely to be heard on Twitter than upper castes
Panelist for the Workshop on Interdisciplinary Research and Writing organized by C.A.R.E
Invited talk in School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University
Invited talk in Dept. of Media and Information, Michigan State University
Invited talk in School of Information, University of Toronto
Invited talk in Dept. of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies, University of Washington
Digital Blackholes and Critical Telescopes: A method of critical analysis of the The Digital Everyday
Caste and Covid-19: Recasting Sanitation Work in India: Kanthi Swaroop
Panel Name: Women in Research - Challenges and Experiences
Title: Building an inclusive community in India
Title: "Learning to be enough, and then more.” (Video)
Contribution to “Dear Internet” by Sri Vamsi Matta for India Foundation for the Arts
Blogpost on Platypus (CASTAC publication)