Oxford in India: Readings Themes in Indian History (Caste in History)

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Item Code: IDK156
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi
Author: Ishita Banerjee Dube
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 0195689364
Pages: 357
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8" X 5.8"
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Book Description

I have come a long way from my undergraduate days. Then, my fiends and I were outraged by the fact that a section of the admission form of the University of Calcutta asked for our caste. In a spirit of juvenile rebellion, while returning the form, we struck out that section, triumphant at our act. Caste, we felt, was an outmoded institution that did not and should not matter, particularly in a state with clearly Left orientations. We were confident that caste was essentially about Hinduism and had to be discarded just as religion was to be confined to the domain of the private. Across the years, my own engagement with Indian history and society along with the growing importance of caste and religion in contemporary India, including the vigorous public debates and bitter conflicts they have engendered, have wrought a change in my prior naivete and nonchalance. I have become increasingly aware of the necessity of understanding caste as institution and practice.

There is no dearth of literature on caste. Indeed, it is apparently inexhaustible and palpably abundant. Yet, there are very few works that take up for serious analysis the manifold, historical articulations of caste. Such discussion is of critical import for an adequate appreciation of caste not merely in relation to overarching theories of its nature and function, but with regard to its actual elaborations in everyday arenas. Caste is not just religious, nor is it exclusive to Hinduism. If caste has been about privilege, its norms have equally been turned upside down by subordinate groups. This is to say that caste is as much about perception and action as it is about ideology and value, and these domains are intimately interconnected. Besides, it is not merely now that debates and confrontations rage around caste. They have accompanied caste throughout its career. Caste has evolved across time and through history, preserving its presence precisely because it has been apprehended and enacted in varied ways.

Caste in History is informed by an awareness of the historical nature of caste and its ever-shifting and porous boundaries. It brings together writings that elaborate the diverse processes that have provided caste with definite shape at different moments of time, further focusing on struggles in the name of and against caste as underlying its evolving expressions. Learning yet departing from sociological and anthropological emphases on caste as 'structure' and 'system', the volume as a whole turns instead to the myriad and divergent articulations of caste in practice. It is in these ways that the work hopes also to offer insights into the emotions and energies invested in caste, which can allow a better comprehension of its ongoing significance.

I am thankful to the editorial staff at Oxford University Press for the suggestions and careful nurturing of the volume. I appreciate their skills, patience, and effort. The comments of the anonymous readers on the initial proposal for the volume enriched the endeavor in valuable ways, Later, the reports of two readers on the introduction helped me to cover gaps, tighten loose-ends, and make the arguments more forceful. David Lorenzen closely read the first draft of the introduction coming up, as always, with incisive comments. The inputs and enthusiasm of my teachers Gautam Bhadra and Sekhar Bandyopadhyay-as well as the active involvement of fellow historian, Saurabh Dube-have been vital for the students of El Colegio de Mexico have improved my understanding of caste, history, and caste in history. Mara Pologovsky and 'Ghosh provided crucial help in the final stages.

Among the contributors to the volume, I especially thank Shail Mayaram and Padmanabh Samarendra for producing valuable chapters at short notice. My gratitude extends of course to all other members of the cast. Apart from giving freely of their time in order to answer endless emails and pursuer publishers for permissions, they have graciously consented to my editing of their pieces.

Friends and family have sustained my efforts through the making of Caste in History. My philosopher father, S.P. Banerjee, did not live to see it. He would have been delighted and proud. My historian mother, Gitasree Bandyopadhyay, gently prodded me on with her enthusiasm and suggestions. She gave me strength through her own fortitude. The volume is dedicated to her.

From the Jacket

The intangibility of caste-as a concept and in practice-retains centrality in discussions on the sociopolitical scenario in India today. For a category whose viability itself has been questioned, the last few years have seen the production of an enormous scholarly corpus on various aspects of caste. However, such studies have only rarely considered the myriad, historical articulations of caste. Caste in History redresses this imbalance by tracking the contentious careers of caste among different groups and in distinct regions of India from the seventeenth century through to the present.

By bringing together a careful selection of old and new works, seminal and recent studies by historians and social scientists, this interdisciplinary reader in the Themes in Indian History series reflects on the diverse understanding of caste in pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial India. It examines caste as institution and ideology and as perception and practice by charting its varied trajectories and changing contours. It also explores the experiences in everyday life of hierarchies and disabilities of caste. The result is a questioning of pervasive presuppositions regarding the given-ness of caste as involving tacit structures of belief and action.

Organized thematically, the volume has four sections. The first part focuses on the distinct yet overlapping ways in which configurations of caste changed and gained legitimacy during colonial times. The next section opens up new vistas of thinking about caste, kingship, identity, and hierarchy. Questions arising from multiple pasts of communities and identities concerns the third part on caste and politics. The concluding section explores the vicissitudes of caste in everyday lives through personal accounts and emotive portrayals of disability and discrimination.

In her introduction to the volume, Ishita Banerjee-Dube discussed the varied historical and epistemological trajectories of caste as well as key debates around identify and consciousness in modern India. She further underlines issues and themes for future research.

This reader will interest scholars, teachers, students, and researchers of modern and contemporary Indian history, political science, sociology, and anthropology, particularly those concerned with the study of caste in pre-colonial, colonial, and postcolonial societies.

Ishita Banerjee-Dube is Professor, Center for Asian and African Studies, El Colegio de Mexico, Mexico.


Series Note x
Introduction: Questions of Caste xv
Ishita Banerjee-Dube
1Caste and the British Merchant Government in Madras, 1639-17493
Patrick A. Roche
2The Census, Social Structure, and Objectification in South Asia28
Bernard S. Cohn
3Caste and British Rule40
G.S. Ghurye
4Between Number and Knowledge: Career of Caste in Colonial Census46
Padmanabh Samarendra
5From Village to Community67
Richard Saumarez Smith
6Caste and Nationality70
H.H. Risley
7The Birth of a Jati79
Frank F. Conlon
8The Northern Nadars of Tamil Nadu93
Dennis Templeman
9Dimensions of Entrepreneurial Behaviour and Caste Differences in Entrepreneurial Style97
Raymond Lee Owens and Ashis Nandy
10The Sudra Right to Rule: Caste, Clan, Community, and State in Nineteenth-century Mewat109
Shail Mayaram
11The Mukkuvars of Kanyakumari:
On the Margins of Caste Society

Kalpana Ram
12Securing the Rural Citizen: The Anti-Kallar Movement of 1896153
Anand Pandian
13Phule and the Inversion of Brahman Myths 172
Rosalind O' Hanlon
14Social Mobility in Colonial Bengal: The Namasudras181
Sekhar Bandyopadhyay
15Gandhi and Ambedkar: A Study in Leadership197
Eleanor Zelliot
16Rise of the Dalits and the Renewed Debate on Caste
Rajni Kothari
17Is India Becoming More Democratic?215
Ashutosh Varshney
18High and Low Castes in Karani 235
Viramma, Josiane Racine, and Jean-Luc Racine
19Religious Hymns250
Vasant Moon
20Childhood Formations256
Kancha Ilaiah
21The Lonely Modernity of Model Town266
Mark Juergensmeyer
22Authority and Discrimination in Everyday Life272
Saurabh Dube
Annotated Bibliography283
Note on Contributors302
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