Gail Omvedt

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Dr. 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.


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.

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.


Omvedt's dissertation was on Cultural Revolt in a Colonial Society: The NonBrahman Movement in Western India, 1873-1930.

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

  • We Shall Smash This Prison: Indian Women in Struggle (1979),
  • "We Will Smash This Prison!.: Indian Women in Struggle " (1980)
  • "Violence Against Women: New Movements And New Theories In India" (1990)
  • Reinventing Revolution: New Social Movements in India (1993),
  • Gender and Technology: Emerging Asian Visions (1994),
  • Dalits And The Democratic Revolution: Dr. Ambedkar And The Dalit Movement In Colonial India " (1994),
  • Dalit Visions: the Anticaste movement and Indian Cultural Identity (1994)
  • Growing Up Untouchable: A Dalit Autobiography Among Others(2000)
  • Buddhism in India : Challenging Brahmanism and Caste (2003)
  • "Ambedkar: Towards an Enlightened India " (2004)
  • Seeking Begumpura: The Social Vision of Anticaste Intellectuals (2008)
  • "Understanding Caste: From Buddha To Ambedkar And Beyond" (2010)

She is currently a Fellow-In-Residence at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Rashtrapati Nivas, Shimla (INDIA).


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

External links[edit]

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