Sociology Index

CASTE

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. The notion that there is a social hierarchy of "Pure People" Versus "Polluted People" lies at the heart of Brutal Caste System. Caste system is maintained from generation to generation by the practice of within-caste marriage or endogamy, and strict formality in social interaction with other castes. Caste is concerned with birth, particularly among Hindus in India. Caste system in India 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.

The Caste System In India

India has a rigid caste system. The people in the lowest caste suffer from extreme poverty and are shunned by the society. Some aspects of India's caste system abnoxius but still remain socially prevalent and very much in vogue. Caste systems are closed stratification systems in which people can do little or nothing to change their social standing.

A caste system is one in which people are born into their social standing and remain in it their whole lives. It is based on fixed or rigid status distinctions, rather than economic classes per se. Caste systems are based on a hierarchy of ascribed statuses, based on being born into fixed caste groups.

In a caste system, therefore, people are assigned roles regardless of their talents, interests, or potential. Marriage is endogamous, forbidding marriage between castes. The relationship between castes is bound by institutionalized rules, and highly ritualistic procedures come into play when people from different castes come into contact. The caste system is best typified by the system of stratification that existed in India for milleniums until the 20th century. In the Hindu caste system, people were also expected to work in the occupation of their caste and to also forced to enter into marriage according to their caste.

There are four castes: Brahmans (priests), Kshatriyas (military), Vaisyas (merchants), and Sudras (artisans and farmers). Cultural values and economic restrictions reinforced the system. Caste systems unfortunately promote beliefs in fate, destiny, and the will of a higher power, rather than promoting individual freedom as a value. A person who lived in a caste society was also socialized to accept his or her social standing. The caste system in India has been officially dismantled, but its presence in Indian society is deeply embedded.

The feudal systems of Europe and Japan can in some ways be seen as caste systems in that the statuses of positions in the social stratifications systems were fixed, and there was little or no opportunity for movement through marriage or economic opportunities.

In Japan, between 1603 and 1867, the mibunsei system divided society into five rigid strata in which social standing was inherited. At the top was the emperor, then court nobles (kuge), military commander-in-chief (shogun), and the land-owning lords (daimyo). Beneath them were four classes or castes: the military nobility (samurai), peasants, craftsmen, and merchants.

The merchants were considered the lowest class because they did not produce anything with their own hands. There was also an outcast or untouchable caste known as the burakumin, who were considered impure or defiled because of their association with death: executioners, undertakers, slaughterhouse workers, tanners, and butchers (Kerbo, 2006).

In Europe, the estate system divided the population into clergy (first estate), nobility (second estate), and commoners (third estate), which included artisans, merchants, and peasants. In early European feudalism, it was still possible for a peasant or a warrior to achieve a high position in the clergy or nobility, but later the divisions became more rigid.

Caste, Culture and Hegemony - Social Dominance in Colonial Bengal - Sekhar Bandyopadhyay. 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.
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 
K S Chalam. 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.