Bhimrao Ambedkar is well known for his roles in anti-caste activism in India and his work in orchestrating vital parts of India’s democratic constitution. He was also famous at the end of his life for proffering a controversial new vision of Buddhism that was designed to create democratic communities and resist caste oppression. Uniting these concerns was a lifelong interest in themes, methods, and ideals from one of Ambedkar’s most important teachers, John Dewey. In this talk, Scott R. Stroud discusses some of the themes in his book, The Evolution of Pragmatism in India: Ambedkar, Dewey, and the Rhetoric of Reconstruction (University of Chicago, 2023), and illustrates the extensive influence of American pragmatism on Ambedkar’s development, along with his creative appropriation and rejection of parts of Dewey’s thought to rethink Buddhism’s social potentials.
Dr. Scott R. Stroud is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He writes on various topics in ethics, rhetoric, and philosophy. He is the author of two academic books, John Dewey and the Artful Life and Kant and the Promise of Rhetoric. He is the co-founder of the first “Center for John Dewey Studies” in India at Savitribai Phule Pune University. His recent book, The Evolution of Pragmatism in India: Ambedkar, Dewey, and the Rhetoric of Reconstruction (University of Chicago/HarperCollins India, 2023), is the most comprehensive account to date of Bhimrao Ambedkar’s encounter with Deweyan pragmatism at Columbia University during 1913-1916 and the ways it shaped his innovative pursuit of social justice in India.
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