Ted Samuel

Aaron "Ted" Samuel (Jagaran Media Center): Ted graduated from Kenyon College in 2005 with a degree in international studies. He earned college and departmental honors and was inducted to both the Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Iota Rho Honor Societies. He was also awarded the prestigious Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award and Franklin Miller Award for his campus leadership, activism and efforts in raising money for tsunami relief. In 2005 to 2006 Ted served as a Fulbright research fellow in South India where he researched the social movement of the Aravani – or South Indian Transgender – community. After his fellowship, Ted wrote: “Though some parts of [my] travels ranged from uncomfortable to heartbreaking, the images I saw and the people I met are forever engrained into my mind and I will be able to share these experiences with others for the rest of my life.”

Putting 2 and 2 together

03 Jul

Caste and Nepal. As an Indian-American and a student of Indian Religions, Cultures, and History, it is safe to say that I have a decent grasp on the concept of caste. As the geography bee participant in junior high and (slightly more recently) a traveler and performer in Nepal, I have learned a fair amount about the Hindu kingdom. But until recently, I had never put two and two together and pondered the possibility of a caste hierarchy existing in Nepal. Until this point, I had only thought of caste within an “Indian” context. I had read many essays authored by leaders of the Dalit social movement in India (Ambedkar, Periyar, etc.) and often quoted Eleanor Zelliot’s “From Untouchable to Dalit” in academic papers. But the history and struggles of Dalits (often known as ‘untouchables’) outside of India had never really come up.

Well, it’s never too late to learn… is it? This coming summer I have the chance to work with the Jagaran Media Center – a progressive organization based in Kathmandu whose mission is to eliminate all forms of caste based discrimination. JMC’s approach to combating caste discrimination is definitely effective and somewhat unique. Through comprehensive media coverage of Dalit issues, radio and television programming intended to reform public attitudes about caste, workshops designed to effectively train young journalists, and the information produced and organized at the Dalit Resource Center, JMC takes a well rounded and holistic approach to improving the situation of Dalits while challenging the concept of “untouchability”. This is much easier said than done in a country where caste discrimination has existed for centuries, but JMC’s pioneering work is certainly a solid start.

I hope that my experience at JMC will help me expand on my theoretical and historical knowledge of social movements in South Asia with practical experience. I have many goals which I aspire to accomplish during my tenure as a Peace fellow. Such goals include helping to revive the JMC newsletter/ e-bulletin, finding ways to celebrate the arts and culture of overlooked, lower caste communities, and further strengthening the relationship with JMC with both The Advocacy Project and Nepali Diaspora organizations in the United States. I also hope to make a difference too.

As I prepare to embark on this journey I’d like to thank everyone who is helping to make this incredible learning experience possible. To the staff of the Advocacy Project and all of my friends and family… thank you for your support!

Posted By Ted Samuel

Posted Jul 3rd, 2007

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