Gail Omvedt

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Gail Omvedt
Gail Omvedt, India.jpg
Born (1941-08-02)2 August 1941
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Occupation Writer, essayist, activist
Nationality Indian, since 1983
Alma mater Carleton College
University of California, Berkeley
Period 1970–present
Notable works Dalits and the Democratic Revolution, We Shall Smash this Prison: Indian Women in Struggle, Reinventing Revolution: New Social Movements and the Socialist Tradition in India
Spouse Bharat Patankar (m. 1976)
Gail at Shahu Smarakr

Gail Omvedt is an American-born Indian scholar, sociologist and human rights activist. Omvedt has been involved in Dalit and anti-caste movements, environmental, farmers' and women's movements.

Personal life[edit]

Gail Omvedt.JPG

Gail Omvedt was born in Minneapolis, and studied at Carleton College, and at UC Berkeley where she earned her PhD in sociology in 1973. She has been an Indian citizen since 1983. She currently lives in rural India in a town in Maharashtra called Kasegaon with her husband, Bharat Patankar, her mother-in-law Indumati Patankar and cousins.

Gail at home in Kasegaon


She has worked actively with social movements in India, including the Dalit and anti-caste movements, environmental movements, farmers’ movements and especially with rural women. She has been active in Shramik Mukti Dal, Stri Mukti Sangarsh Chalval which works on issues of abandoned women in Sangli and Satara districts of southern Maharashtra, and the Shetkari Mahila Aghadi, which works on issues of women’s land rights and political power.


She was born in Minneapolis, and studied at Carleton College, and at UC Berkeley where she earned her PhD in sociology in 1973. She has been an Indian citizen since 1983.

Gail Omvedt 2015

In recent years she has been working as a consulting sociologist on gender, environment and rural development, for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Oxfam Novib (NOVIB) and other institutions. She has been a consultant for UN agencies and NGOs, has served as a Dr. Ambedkar Chair Professor at NISWASS in Orissa, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Pune, as Asian Guest Professor at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, Copenhagen and as a Senior Fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi. She has been a Visiting Professor and Coordinator, School of Social Justice, University of Pune and a Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. Gail Omvedt is a former Chair Professor for the Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Chair of Social Change and Development at IGNOU.

Gail in Maharashtra


Omvedt's dissertation was on Cultural Revolt in a Colonial Society: The NonBrahman Movement in Western India, 1873-1930 (reprint of 1976 book) (New Delhi, Manohar, 2011).

Omvedt's academic writing includes numerous books and articles on class, caste and gender issues, most notably:[1]

  • Cultural Revolt in a Colonial Society: The NonBrahman Movement in Maharashtra" (Scientific Socialist Education Trust, 1966)
  • We Shall Smash This Prison: Indian Women in Struggle (1979)
  • "We Will Smash This Prison!.: Indian Women in Struggle " (Zed, 1980)
  • "Violence Against Women: New Movements And New Theories In India" (Kali for Women, 1991)
  • Reinventing Revolution: New Social Movements in India (M.E. Sharpe, 1993)
  • Gender and Technology: Emerging Asian Visions (1994)
  • Dalits And The Democratic Revolution: Dr. Ambedkar And The Dalit Movement In Colonial India " (Sage India, 1994)
  • Dalit Visions: the Anticaste movement and Indian Cultural Identity (Orient Longman, 1995)
  • Growing Up Untouchable: A Dalit Autobiography (Rowman and Littlefield, 2000)
  • Buddhism in India : Challenging Brahmanism and Caste (SageIndia, 2003)
  • "Ambedkar: Towards an Enlightened India " (Penguin, 2005)
  • Seeking Begumpura: The Social Vision of Anticaste Intellectuals (New Delhi, Navayana, 2009)
  • "Understanding Caste: From Buddha To Ambedkar And Beyond" (New Delhi: Orient Blackswan, 2011)
  • Songs of Tukoba with Bharat Patankar she has published (translations)" (Manohar, 2012)


  • BA received Magna Cum Laude, with Distinction in Senior Comprehensive Examinations
  • PhD qualifying examinations passed with Distinction
  • Honorary Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, 1964-65
  • Fulbright Fellowship as Tutor in English in India, June 1963-March 1964
  • University of California Graduate Fellowships, l964-65, l965-66
  • American Institute of Indian Studies, Junior Fellowship for PhD research in India on “The NonBrahman Movement in Maharashtra,” January–December 1971
  • American Association of University Women, Fellowship for research on “Women’s Movement in India,” January–December 1975
  • Savitribai Phule Puraskar, Padmashri Kavivarya Narayan Surve Sarvajanik Vacanalay, Nashik, 2002
  • Dr. Ambedkar Chetna Award, Manavwadi Rachna Manch Punjab, August, 2003


Omvedt posits that Hindutva groups foster an ethnic definition of Hinduism based on geography, ancestry and heritage in order to create a solidarity amongst various castes, despite the prevalence of caste-based discrimination.[2]

Omvedt endorsed the stand taken by Dalit activists at the 2001 World Conference Against Racism that caste discrimination is similar to racism in regarding discriminated groups as "biologically inferior and socially dangerous".[2]

She has called the United States a "racist country" and has advocated for affirmative action[3]

She has on occasion supported big-dam projects[4] and GMO crops.[5][6]


Her stand on racism was opposed by the Indian government[7] and sociologists including Andre Beteille, who acknowledges that discrimination exists but opposes treating caste as a form of racism simply to protect against prejudice and discrimination, calling such an attempt "politically mischievous and "worse, scientifically nonsense".[8][9]

Source: UC Berkeley website, University of Michigan website

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Books by Gail Omvedt". Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Gail Omvedt, Hindutva and ethnicity, The Hindu, Feb 25, 2003 Archived 25 December 2010 at WebCite
  3. ^ Gail Omvedt, Mythologies of Merit, Outlook, Aug 29, 2003 (requires registration)(Convenience link) Archived 25 December 2010 at WebCite
  4. ^ Gail Omvedt, Open Letter To Arundhathi Roy
  5. ^ Gail Omvedt, Burning Farmer's Fields (Part 1), The Hindu, 9 November 2010, [1]
  6. ^ Gail Omvedt, Burning Farmer's Fields (Part 2), The Hindu, 10 November 2010, [2]
  7. ^ An Untouchable Subject?, NPR, Aug. 29, 2001 Archived 25 December 2010 at WebCite
  8. ^ Discrimination that must be cast away,The Hindu, June 03, 2001 Archived 25 December 2010 at WebCite
  9. ^ Andre Béteille, Race and caste, The Hindu, 10 March 2001 Archived 25 December 2010 at WebCite

External links[edit]