Contents: 1. Introduction: Specificities and Comparisons. 2. Caste in social Science Discourse: Antecedents and Debates. 3. What do Indians have to Say about Caste?. 4. The Debate about untouchables: consensus or Resistance?. 5. Practising Caste: How Much Change before Caste Turns into Something Else?. 6. Conclusion: Cross-Cultural Comparisons Again.
Is caste unique to India – or can the concept be applied elsewhere?
• How have essential views of caste affected the way in which it is studied?
• How does caste relate to other dimensions of difference and inequality such as class and ethnicity?.
This lively and accessible text examines the concept of caste, noting its origin in orientalist descriptions of Indian society, and showing how it made its way into social scientific discourse as a tool for the comparative analysis of social stratification. It reviews social scientists’ accounts of caste in contemporary India, discussing the theoretical assumptions underlying such descriptions. The author takes issue with the view of caste which regards it as specific to Hindu India and makes a case for a comparative sociology concerned with social processes. Such a sociology is important and indeed necessary if we are to understand the ways in which social inequality and cultural difference are organized in contemporary societies. The book represents a key text for students of comparative sociology and social anthropology, as well as those studying ethnicity, cultural difference and social and cultural change, religious studies, and others with an interest in Asian studies.