top of page

Identity matters
Arul Kani

ENGLISH | 2022

Podcast series artwork and production stills.


Conversations that seek to subvert dominant narratives around caste and gender through the lens of identity/identities. 

Artist's statement

Identity Matters is an audio series to have conversations, discuss ideas and share stories primarily focused on gender and caste. My name is Arul Kani, I’m a queer Dalit woman with a with a fierce belief in intersectional identity politics and Ambedkarite feminism. 

The idea for this podcast began with wanting a space where people who are my friends, colleagues, fellow activists and family members can have casual everyday conversations with me, about the nuances of caste and gender with varying themes. In between that I would weave my story alongside theirs in our journey to understand and navigate our identities making the personal as political. In all my years of engaging with literature from social justice and identity politics movements, I have understood that stories have a power in themselves. And for those of us who come from historically marginalized communities, other people have told our stories or stories about us from time immemorial. The space for transformative politics begins with us understanding our identities and our histories by telling our own stories. 

Caste, similar to other identities, is a crucial part of the way we understand ourselves and those around us. Caste is in our names, where we live, the food we eat, the language we speak, who we marry etc. The relationship between caste and gender is crucial to unpacking caste itself by having conversations around it rather than treating it as  ‘topics’ that only take place in an academic space. 

The series


Episode 1: This episode explores the theme of caste and education. My friend Pindiga Ambedkar joins me as we talk about Savitri Bai Phule, the narrative around ‘merit’ and how it is normalized as a part of the dominant discourse, the anti- reservations rhetoric; Dalit student suicides in higher education. The thread is tied up by highlighting education as a central tool not just in the anti-caste movement but also heralding a bloodless revolution. 

​Featured guest: Pindiga Ambedkar, a researcher at Tricontinental Research Services, New Delhi. He received his MPhil from the Centre for the Study of Social Systems at Jawaharlal Nehru University, where he focused his studies on issues faced by the oppressed classes (specifically, the lower castes or Dalits) in science and technology institutes in India.  In addition to his research, P. Ambedkar is engaged with Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch ("the Platform for Liberation of the Oppressed" in English), which fights against caste discrimination. Prior to joining the Tricontinental, he worked as a correspondent with NewsClick, a web-based journal headquartered in New Delhi.

Episode 2: This episode explores the theme of caste and food. Caste and gender are intrinsically woven together at the site of food. There is as much knowledge in what one cooks/eats as there is oppression and resistance. With this episode, I aim to navigate the politics of why we eat what we eat. The political economy of food (vis a vis vegetarianism, beef eating etc), the physical and emotional labour of women, the belongingness and pride of food itself.

​Featured guest: Poorana Thangaraj, a Tamil feminist, post graduate scholar of history and avant-garde cook. She is deeply passionate about social justice, nurturing relationships and giving back to the community. She loves sudoku, sweets and spending time with her grandchildren. She has dabbled in teaching, travel agent and is a member of Siddhartha Educational and Cultural Association. Her home has provided shelter and warmth to many who have come in need and for fancy, for she believes that love is the start of the revolution.


​Episode 3: This episode explores the theme of caste and friendship. My close friends, Zaineb and Urvija are the guests for this episode where we talk about what entails feminist friendship juxtaposing it against the journey of our friendships. There is plenty of banter about the beginning of our friendship, the disagreements and conflicts that we have had and the impact of having different identities between friends and if indeed friendships are political.  

Featured guests: 

Urvija Priyadarshini. An academic and freelance musician. She is a feminist by training and ideology and is interested in the politics of culture, arts and religion. She has recently finished her Doctorate in Gender Studies from University of Hyderabad and has a Master's in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Urvija is a care giver for her mentally ailing father. In her free time- she likes to teach music, cook, upcycle and care for her plants and pets.


Zaineb Ali leads the Corporate Social Responsibility mandate of Eaton group of companies in India. In the past, she has worked with Centre for Migration and Labour Solutions (CMLS) at Aajeevika Bureau; Centre for Insurance and Risk Management at Institute of Financial Management and Research; Ujjivan Microfinance Pvt Ltd and Central Academy School. A trainer, teacher, researcher and practitioner, she has over 14 years of experience working on concerns and vulnerabilities of migrant workers, gender, food insecurity, financial exclusion and socially relevant technological innovation. She has a Master’s degree in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and a Master of Science (Mathematics) from Mohanlal Sukhadia University. Being a mother, foodie, avid gardener and swimmer, she dons many hats.


​Episode 4: This episode explores the theme of caste and family. This is a free flowing episode that captures the role of the family in deconstructing caste. The conscious and at many times unconscious perpetuation of gender and caste norms is enforced in families that moulds the core identity and world view of individuals. We talk about our families, the need to support each other and the need for platforms such as this podcast to bring out our stories. 

​Featured guest: Rohini Chandrasekaran, a development professional and decent work expert in global supply chains based out of Tamilnadu, India. She has over twenty years of experience working on developing community-based enterprises, international sustainability standards like Fairtrade, Better Cotton Initiative, Fair Labor Association working with vulnerable communities like Dalit women, tribal communities, transgender, sex workers, HIV positive people, workers, farmers on research, capacity building, audits, assessment projects. She enjoys traveling and exploring different cuisines across varied cultures and spends her leisure time watching NetFlix.

Episode 5: This episode explores the theme of caste and body and sexuality. In this episode, I’m reflecting on my understanding of the centrality of the Dalit woman’s body to the anti-caste discourse. By narrating the stories of Nangeli, Phoolan Devi and Mayawati; I attempt to locate their place or lack thereof in the mainstream feminist movement. Towards the end of the episode, I also touch upon the rise of intersectional politics of queer identity within the Dalit movement. 

About the artist

I am a queer Dalit woman with a fierce belief in intersectional identity politics and Ambedkarite feminism.  My journey into criticality began as a child when I learnt to question and challenge values, norms, ideas present around me. I went on to graduate from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, specializing in ‘Dalit and Tribal Social Work’ and also hold a masters in Gender and Development studies.  I am committed to working within a gender-caste framework in the field of development and passionate about wanting to provide greater voice for the marginalized in India while addressing inequity and inequality. At this particular stage, I’m looking at creating a platform outside of the career space to explore my role and participation in the discourse of caste. 


Concept, research and conversations | Arul Kani

Artwork design | Annam. M

Creative editor | Apeksha Priyadarshini

bottom of page