Sunder Rajan’s essay responds to Gopal Guru and Sundar Sarukkai’s book The Cracked Mirror: An Indian Debate on Experience and Theory. Its primary focus is the authors’ arguments regarding the absence of original theory in the social sciences in India, and the case they make for the imperative need for such theory. The essay also places Guru and Sarukkai in conversation with Franz Fanon. It is Fanon, Sunder Rajan contends, who speaks most closely and pertinently to the question of the “lived experience” that Guru and Sarukkai invoke, in the phenomenological mode, as theory’s other and its source. But it is not exclusively these obvious parallels between Fanon’s pioneering work on the experience and philosophy of race on the one hand, and the contemporary work on Dalit experience and theory on the other, that the essay is interested in tracing. It also draws attention also to a practice of theoretical intervention that Fanon establishes in his work, in Black Skin and in The Wretched of the Earth, that would be of value to caste critiques, which is to use (a certain Other) experience to draw the limits of (European, mainstream) theory.

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