Iim calcutta indian social structure - caste and recasting
Why study Indian Social Structure at all? Rural and Urban Social Structure Three Basic Pillars of Traditional Indian Society: Caste, Village and Joint Family
A1: Caste and Its Recasting – Caste as a System – Hierarchy – Endogamy – Commensality – Lack of Mobility – Ascribed Status – Principle of Separation and Revulsion – Relation between caste and occupation
Change in the Caste System • Caste is changing from cooperation to competition, from hierarchy to difference, division, separation or revulsion, from whole to parts, from system to elements, from structure to substance.
Caste in Rural Areas - IThe dominant view of Caste system was that it had its origins in rural society. Hence its significance in village studies. “The Soil grows caste, the machine makes classes.” (Young)However the nature of caste in urban areas is very different.
Caste in Rural Areas II Caste in the context of the village was marked by − a small population divided into relatively a small number of castes − little possibility of existence of sub castes − face to face interactions − mutually overlapping, relations- hence of multiplex nature
Caste in Urban Areas -IThey are characterized by − A large population divided into a large number of castes,further divided into many sub-sub-castes − Sometimes a division itself is an endogamous unit − Many spheres of interaction, hence minimal overlap − Nature of intercaste relations contractual and market oriented
Caste in Urban Area II− In urban areas relations between castes characterized by a principle of difference, division or separation, rather than hierarchy.− The city or urban centers have been the ground of many ideas/movements that challenged caste hierarchy.− Caste as a system has given way to the rise of individual castes.
Caste in Urban Areas -IIIIncreasing salience of Caste today in urban areas due to − increasing urbanisation − Increase in population − easy transference of the urban culture of any caste to its rural sections − Urban castes to wield greater influence than caste in the rural areas in 21st century
Growth of Individual Castes Growth of individual castes ensured that concerns of identity emerged as the prime characteristic of caste in 20th century. Two contradictory process are seena) Quest for boundary maintenanceb) Growth of megacastes
Growth of Mega Castes Castes with small population could close off their boundaries Tendency to break the sub caste boundaries and amalgamate into larger castes. Castes became conglomerates leading to the growth of mega castes (Shah) Castes have become globalized
Weakening of Castes Today4 reasons for the weakening of caste boundaries today : − Decline in significance of ideas of purity and pollution in Hindu society today − Decline in distinctiveness of castes and emergence of a certain uniformity among castes − The relation between caste and occupation has disappeared − Declining role of caste panchayats
Changes in System of Marriage Caste endogamy was an important way to maintain the caste boundaries – also considered as a defining feature of caste! Caste endogamy alone decides the hereditary nature of caste membership. But emphasis on caste endogamy led to the neglect of the practice of hypergamy prevalent historically.
Changes in system of Marriage- II Hypergamy (Anuloma) – marriage of a high caste man with a low caste woman. Hypogamy (Pratiloma) – marriage of a low caste man with a high caste woman.
Changing System of Marriage - IIIHypergamy has several implications - It helps the castes to rise in social status, claim equality, adopt the names of higher castes. Upper castes of course resist it. Hypergamy thus implies loose and fluid boundaries of castes.
Hypergamy among tribes Hypergamy also existed among the tribes, between tribes and castes. It enabled tribal groups to claim equal status with the rajput castes, marrying off their women to them, thus blurring the boundaries between castes. Hypergamy was also found in the higher echelons eg. Rajput royal families Thus caste endogamy was not adhered to strictly.
Inter caste marriages− Intercaste marriages especially in the urban areas is prevalent today.− Trend is increasing in the rural areas too.− Opposition to these trends exist but they are not really tenable in the long run− This again, loosens caste boundaries.
Dissolving Caste ? Some of the forces of change affecting caste endogamy and caste solidarity today are- Inter caste marriages rising age at marriage ideology of freedom of choice in marriage increasing freedom in gender relations in the public sphere, powerful role of the electronic and print media
Dissolving Castes ? - II Shrinking networks of relatives in urban areas weakening the foundations for unity of individual castes Joint families losing spatial cohesion due to migration to urban areas and even outside the country Marriages taking place outside the caste Unit.
Rise of Caste Associations− Caste associations as new institutions aiding the rise of individual castes.− Initially in the 19th century they existed as small units in cities and towns− Main role was to promote welfare− Usually they have written constitutions, membership fees, rules and regulations, offices and elections
Rise of Caste Associations - II− They expressed specific political claims in early 20th century− After independence, their specific goal was to represent caste in electoral politics, and claim the benefits of reservation.− Today caste associations try various strategies to check the rising trend in intercaste marriages.− Organise caste based activities with wider political implications.
Limits of Caste Associations− Caste associations do not always succeed because :a) not everybody seeks to become a member of these associationsb) Castes are internally differentiated, no caste association can represent the interest of the whole castec) Internal conflicts between rival associations within the same casted) Lack of disciplinary authority like the caste panchayats.
Recasting of Castea) Castes do not exist as a monolithb) Internal differentiation within castes has always existed and is likely to increasec) Every individual castes have a complex internal structure and organisationd) Identity of castes have to be cultivated continuously by a variety of means
Recasting of Caste -IIe) Increase in population and Internal differentiation has led to a change in the way castes behave politically.f) Castes play an important political role in the issue of reservation of backward classes.g) This in turn leads castes to define their boundaries clearly.h) But again, processes mentioned earlier have made the boundaries of castes fuzzy.
Recasting of Caste - IIII) Increasing influence of the metropolitan culture on caste- a culture of freedomj) Those arguing for caste based reservations are actually casteless intellectuals.k) Thus the dynamics of individual caste is likely to be the dominant feature of caste in the 20th Century. -------XXXXX-------