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Jusmeet Singh Sihra, Alex Berger Prize 2024

Jusmeet Singh Sihra, prix Alex Berger 2024


Congratulations to Dr Jusmeet Singh Sihra, PhD in Political Science, on being awarded the Alex Berger Prize 2024, for his dissertation entitled "Relegation of Ex-Untouchables in Urban India: A Study of Socio-Spatial Segregation in Ajmer".

After completing a master's degree at the Sciences Po Urban School and obtaining his doctorate at the School of Research / CERI under joint supervision with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Dr Jusmeet Singh Sihra joined the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge in January 2024 as a British Academy International Fellow.

And as good news never comes alone, Dr Jusmeet Singh Sihra has also just been awarded the prestigious British Academy International Fellowship.


Cities have been thought of as spaces where the ex-untouchables of India can escape discrimination and ostracization. However, their segregation remains endemic in Indian cities. This PhD explores how caste and urban space interact to segregate ex-untouchables. Through a mixed-methods approach consisting of 130 interviews, ethnographic observations, a geo-referenced survey of 700 households, and cartographic analyses, the work uncovers what I call the "concentric contiguous” form of segregation. This form of segregation is characterized by upper castes residing closest to main roads, while ex-untouchables, segregated by subcastes, reside in the core of the neighbourhood farthest from the main roads. Spatial boundaries are hyper-visibilised through toponymical, topographical, and olfactory mechanisms. In this thesis, I argue that caste is spatialized and etched on urban space: when markers of identity are invisible, spatializing identities becomes the mechanism of maintaining status hierarchies. Segregation organized in such a manner affects inter-caste interactions, ritualistic practices of ex-untouchables, and even upward social mobility across ex-untouchable subcastes. Thus, caste-based inequalities are reproduced through spatial segregation. This work contributes to the theories of segregation, caste, social stigma, pollution, social visibility, social mobility and the organisation of inequality.

Virtual Graduate Open House day, October 2024

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