Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Link Pack #11: Deep Work, Mindfulness and a Paper on Caste

Paper: The inimitable David Mosse recently wrote a paper in World Development called Caste and development: Contemporary perspectives on a structure of discrimination and advantage. It is an important paper that looks at caste in its various dimensions—economic divisions based on occupation, political through systems of dominance and rule, and ideological which is closely linked to ideas of purity and impurity. I particularly enjoyed Mosse's review of the implications of caste on economic inequality, where he cites literature from rural India's longitudinal village studies as well as assessment of public services delivery by development economists.

However, I missed a discussion on sub-caste differences that goes beyond Dailts vs. the rest (to be fair they are alluded to but not detailed). As recent work shows, understanding intra-caste inequalities is critical but does not receive as much attention as commonly stated hierarchies of ST/SC/OBC/General do.

Mosse also makes a very useful point about how there are shifts in what caste means and confers. Thus, as villagers integrate into the regional economy, caste is reconfigured as a "a resource or strategic network for access into this economy and workforce" (p.427, emphasis in original). However, when caste connotations move from "honor to opportunity" (ibid.), it is relegated to further invisibility. This is why the oft-repeated argument that the move from rural to urban areas allows loosening of caste-based discrimination might be erroneous since caste-based identity does not disappear, it merely morphs or in come cases, becomes invisible. The paper is an important read for anyone working on development issues in India.

Podcast: Ezra Klein's podcast is my latest favourite thing to listen to (I listen to podcasts while cooking and find the mix of stimulating my auditory and olfactory senses quite a nice change from being tied to a laptop!). Two great episodes I particularly liked:
  1. His conversation with Cal Newport (computer scientist at Georgetown University who also advocates for 'deep work'). They talk of distractedness and productivity (the two most overused words of the decade!), but more importantly, of 'mental callisthenics' or workouts for the brain. Towards the end, Newport suggests a few immediate tasks one can do for improving your mental health/attention span/proclivity for deep work: start putting on your calendar some appointments with yourself to do deep work; take social media applications off your phone; and schedule the time you do novel, distracting, stimulating things.
  2. His conversation with Robert Wright, on Why Buddhism is True is a thought-provoking conversation about the practical benefits of meditation, where mindfulness meets evolutionary biology, and how to navigate an era of fast news and information overload. A must-listen for over-stretched academics with a mountain of to-read papers and to-write-down ideas.
Read previous link packs here

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