Beyond Caste Identity and Power in South Asia, Past and by Guha S

By Guha S

"Beyond Caste" lines the various adjustments South Asian society in the course of the centuries and indicates how 'caste' will be understood as a politically inflected and intricate kind of ethnic stratification that continued throughout spiritual affiliations.

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1500–1687). It contained the imprecation that any Muslim who violated the grant would be deemed to have become Christian (naṣrāni), and any kāfir (evidently meaning Hindu) violator would be deemed to have killed and eaten a cow in Banaras-Kāśi and also engaged in illicit sexual activity there (one assumes not simultaneously). 29 Here we have in fact an example of the segments, Hindu and Muslim alike, that constituted the local community gathered under official direction to ratify the grant—in short, a Persian lithic record of the south Indian ‘gotsabhā’ or county assembly, meeting as it had done for centuries and was to do for another 200 years.

I am indebted to Professor Dilbagh Singh for a photocopy of this rare text. 32 birth of caste 29 clearly shared Ibbetson’s experience of social classification. Ibbetson wrote that his “tribes and castes” included bodies constituted on very different principles. 36 Qaum was, as Brian Caton has established, widely used in an indigenous history from the 1850s to label political units. 37 We see, therefore, that the idea of a bounded community as a unit of social, political, and administrative life was indiscriminately applied across religious boundaries to the end of the nineteenth century, and qaum and its derivatives were the most common label used for such communities in indigenous discourse.

1 This chapter will trace how that came about. Let us begin with the anthropologist Morton Klass’s penetrating comment that there is no exact equivalent of the word “caste” in Indian languages; English borrowed it from Portuguese in the same way as it borrowed “taboo” from Polynesian. 2 Ultimately, however, the Portuguese term prevailed. Once chosen, it was reinserted in translations of earlier terminology—as for example, the Greco-Roman writer Arrian’s citation (c. ” The term “caste” thus mingled 1 Nicholas Dirks, Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India Indian edition (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2001), 3, for both quotes.

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