The South Asian Studies Program at the University of Iowa organized a three-day Symposium in October, 2002, titled “Beyond Durban: Caste and Race Dialogues.” This symposium was sponsored through a grant from the Crossing Borders Program at the University of Iowa and the Ford Foundation. It brought together scholars to discuss and extend debates surrounding the turbulent but historically significant World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance which took place in Durban, South Africa from 31 August – 7 September, 2001.
While the connection has often been made between social injustice and violence exemplified by racism in the USA and by casteism in India, it has been uncommon to bring together scholars who study these issues. The symposium involved participants from various institutions in India, Europe, and the USA and from various disciplines such as anthropology, history, political science, women’s studies, sociology, African American Studies, American Studies, Native American Studies and economics. The organizers of this symposium therefore envisioned an intensely collaborative meeting that furthered the mutual interests of these somewhat different kinds of scholars in several different disciplines, raising, reviewing, and rethinking key issues around the projects of multiculturalism, democracy and human rights.