Sociology Index


Caste is status group, within a system of hierarchical social stratification, in which membership is hereditary. Caste differentiations are based on religious and mythical traditions and caste membership determines occupational roles, place of residence and legal and customary rights and duties.

Caste is maintained from generation to generation by the practice of within-caste marriage  or endogamy and strict formality in social interaction with other castes.

‘Jati’ or caste originates from the root word ‘Jana’ which implies taking birth. Caste is concerned with birth, particularly among Hindus in India. In India for instance the caste system is so well entrenched that in an high to low order, the second last will not marry into the last. The second last in fact look down upon the last in the order.

Caste, Culture and Hegemony - Social Dominance in Colonial Bengal 
Sekhar Bandyopadhyay, Victoria University of Wellington.

Description: Because of its exceptional social development, the caste system in colonial Bengal differed considerably from the rest of India. Using empirical evidence data combined with an impressive array of secondary sources, Dr Bandyopadhyay delineates the manner in which Hindu caste society maintained its cultural hegemony and structural cohesion.

Starting with an examination of the relationship between caste and power, the book examines early cultural encounters between 'high' Brahmanical tradition and the more egalitarian 'popular' religious cults of the lower castes. It moves on to take a close look at the relationship between caste and gender showing the reasons why the reform movement for widow remarriage failed.

Orientalism, ideology and identity - Examining caste in South Asian archaeology 
Nicole Boivin, Maison de.
After attempting to identify why caste has been largely omitted from archaeological studies in South Asia, the article explores some of the issues that archaeologists will have to consider if they are going to begin to explicitly address caste in their research, including the relationship between caste and material culture, time, place, agency and ideology. Article examines the reasons why archaeologists need to address caste, and the ways in which archaeology can contribute to a clear understanding of caste and its development and contemporary relevance in South Asia.

The Embodiment of Caste-Oppression, Protest and Change - Hugo Gorringe, University of Edinburgh, Irene Rafanell, University of Paisley - Sociology, Vol. 41, No. 1, 97-114 (2007).
Caste is often presented as a stable or fixed form of social stratification that conditions the behaviour of its members. This occludes the micro-structural process by which caste is embodied. Whereas the internalized structures of Bourdieu's habitus initially appear to make most sense of the embodiment and permanence of caste, we contend that a Foucauldian approach offers better insight into the interactional basis of social structures and identity formation. The article reconsiders both theories in light of these empirical data and concludes that analysing interaction at a local level enables us to better comprehend the emergence of social structural features in a caste context.

Caste-Based Reservations and Human Development in India 
Authored by: K S Chalam Union Public Service Commission.
Description: Caste-based reservations have existed in India for more than a century. Initially introduced by the British to bring equality of opportunity in education, reservation was later extended to other sectors of the development process to overcome the problem of economic inequalities attributed to caste. Even today, concepts like affirmative action and quotas are being debated to justify reservation. The book also analyzes the impact of caste-based reservations on the target groups, as well as on major human development indices. An alternative strategy of applying the democratic principle of caste-based reservation is also discussed.