Kamala Visweswaran holds degrees from the University of California Berkeley and Stanford University, and currently teaches in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California San Diego. She has received Fulbright and American Institute of Indian Studies research awards, as well as fellowships at the University of Chicago Humanities Institute, the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study, the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Princeton Institute of International and Regional Studies. She is the author of Fictions of Feminist Ethnography (Minnesota, 1994) and Un/common Cultures: Racism and the Rearticulation of Cultural Difference (Duke, 2010). She is the editor of Perspectives on Modern South Asia (Blackwell, 2011), and Everyday Occupations: Experiencing Militarism in South Asia and the Middle East (Pennsylvannia, 2013). Her current book, under contract with Duke University Press, is A Thousand Genocides Now: Gujarat in the Modern Imaginary of Violence.
Neoliberalism as a set of institutions and ideas and as a mode of governance has posed a real challenge to Cultural Studies. On the one hand, multiculturalism as formulated by Stuart Hall and the Birmingham school, sought a deeply committed mapping of counter-cultures of the marginal and minoritized. On the other hand, multiculturalism also anticipates the tropes of neoliberal governance as a management of diverse populations under democratic regimes. The difficulty of distinguishing authoritarian or majoritarian cultural formations from their minoritarian manifestations as they travel across nation-states creates new problems for understanding emergent global political formations like “indigeneity.” In this paper I turn to the emergence of a majoritarian discourse of indigeneity in in India that not only disappears adivasi (first peoples) subjects from the Indian political landscape, but violently “counters” Dalit presence in Northamerica not only through the appropriation of the language of civil rights and anti-discrimination law, but through deployment of the cultural studies critique of Orientalism and of post-colonial theory more generally. Indian immigrants thus become “native” or “indigenous” on foreign soil through adaptation of the very civil liberties discourse they decry in India for being “soft on minorities.” Such paradoxes undergird what I call “Civil Neoliberties.”