Bhimrao Ambedkar, famous for being a political ally to the “untouchable” castes and a political sparring partner to Gandhi in India's struggle for independence, is also well-known for his public advocacy for Buddhism. Starting in the 1930s, Ambedkar began arguing that he and his fellow untouchables should convert from Hinduism to escape caste oppression. Ambedkar was also influenced by his teacher at Columbia University, John Dewey. Religious conversion transformed in Ambedkar's rhetorical strategy to a meliorative program. His rhetoric of conversion operated in three stages: reflection on one's religious orientation, renunciation of a problematic orientation, and conversion to a more useful orientation. This study explicates the final phase of Ambedkar's conversion rhetoric, the stage he only expands upon in his oratorical activity during his last decade of life. His rhetorical appeals to convert to Buddhism are found to be performative in nature and to be imbued with a Deweyan ethos of religious rhetoric as an emancipatory device for individuals and communities.
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Research Article| August 01 2017
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Scott R. Stroud; The Rhetoric of Conversion as Emancipatory Strategy in India: Bhimrao Ambedkar, Pragmatism, and the Turn to Buddhism. Rhetorica 1 August 2017; 35 (3): 314–345. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/rh.2017.35.3.314
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