ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Caste and Untouchability in Rural Punjab

Despite having the largest proportion of scheduled caste population in India, Punjab has rarely been seen as a relevant case for conceptualisation of the caste system and the changes taking place therein. Though some aspects of caste in Punjab have been studied, there has virtually been no detailed empirical documentation of the practice of untouchability in rural Punjab. Based on an extensive field-study, this paper provides a broad mapping of the prevailing caste relations and the practice of untouchability in rural Punjab. The study focuses specifically on the process of change, particularly in the context of agrarian transformations that the Punjab countryside has experienced in the wake of the success of green revolution technology. The paper also argues that the processes of change could be meaningfully captured through the categories of 'dissociation', 'distancing' and 'autonomy'.

One Step Outside Modernity

The contradictory engagement with mdoernity by the lower castes has an important message: being one step outside modernity alone can guarantee them a public where the politics of difference can articulate itself, and caste can emerge as a legitimate category of democratic politics. Being one step outside modernity is indeed being one step ahead of modernity.

The Varna Trophic System

The evolution of castes including the forming of the varna ideology was a historical consequence of ecosystem development. As this paper argues, the brahminic theory of a varna social structure based on the notions of purity and pollution is systematically mapped on to the framework of the trophic system as developed in the field of ecology. The evolution of castes follow the logic of Darwinian principles elaborated in the field of population ecology. The emergence of untouchability is seen as an ecologically determined adaptation contributing to the fitness and survival of those regarded as untouchable. Untouchability and the varna framework are inseparably joined by an ecological logic. It is not possible to preserve in any way the identities of caste and at the same time hope to eradicate untouchability.

Work and Women's Identity

Experience and Identity by Anna
published by the Department of
History, Lund University, Sweden,


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