Caste in Question: Identity Or Hierarchy?

Front Cover
Dipankar Gupta
SAGE Publications India, Nov 8, 2004 - Social Science - 255 pages
This volume offers a new understanding of caste in contemporary India. It argues that the traditional view of caste - as a single hierarchy, with Brahmans at the top and the untouchable castes at the bottom - is no longer valid.

Based on fieldwork, the articles in this volume prove that ritual dominance does not determine the nature of caste interactions in any way. From politics to gender to economic interaction, the single, pure hierarchy is constantly being questioned and weakened. Castes that once had the status of shudras are now claiming, on occasions, a position superior to Brahmans and Kshatriyas; agrarian castes - such as Jats, Ahirs and Gujars - are at the political forefront, taking caste identities outside the village; the once passive untouchable castes are now aggressive and militant, and aware of their rights in a democratic society.

This exciting collection of original articles demonstrates how caste identity today challenges the outdated notion of a single, all-encompassing hierarchy, within which each caste co-exists peacefully.


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Enforcing kinship and territorial exogamy
Caste and modern politics in a north Indian town
3 Jains caste and hierarchy in north Gujarat
A study of rural Bihar
5 Replication or dissent? Culture and institutions among Untouchable Scheduled Castes in Karnataka
Dalits and their politics in contemporary Punjab
Dalit mobilisation and nationalist past
Caste consciousness of a marginal community
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About the author (2004)

Dipankar Gupta is Professor at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

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