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Caste

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Book: Castes in India, their Mechanisms, Genesis, and Development
  • Caste is endogamy superimposed on exogamy

  • Caste acts as an artificial barrier to the natural tendency of human exogamy.

  • One way to think of it is as a social reproduction boundary

  • It is maintained through 2 mechanisms:

    • Giving everyone within the boundary marriage opportunity
    • Punishing those who violate this norm
  • This involves solving the problem of surplus men or women who may marry outside the community

    • Surplus women (i.e. widows) were burned with their husband (Sati) or were socially excluded for life
    • In case of surplus men (Ex: widower), they were offered child brides
  • Ancient India consisted of mobile classes.

    • At some point, the priestly class established a boundary of marriage and became a caste
  • Sati, Widow exclusion, Girl marriage were a means to solve problems of surplus men and women in the community that later formed narratives

  • Caste spread through 2 mechanisms.

    • Some castes closed their doors to others
    • Some found the door closed to them
  • A caste doesn’t exist in isolation. It is the system of castes that exist mutually coercing each other.