Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India

Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India

by Nicholas B. Dirks
     
 

ISBN-10: 0691088950

ISBN-13: 9780691088952

Pub. Date: 09/17/2001

Publisher: Princeton University Press

When thinking of India, it is hard not to think of caste. In academic and common parlance alike, caste has become a central symbol for India, marking it as fundamentally different from other places while expressing its essence. Nicholas Dirks argues that caste is, in fact, neither an unchanged survival of ancient India nor a single system that reflects a core

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Overview

When thinking of India, it is hard not to think of caste. In academic and common parlance alike, caste has become a central symbol for India, marking it as fundamentally different from other places while expressing its essence. Nicholas Dirks argues that caste is, in fact, neither an unchanged survival of ancient India nor a single system that reflects a core cultural value. Rather than a basic expression of Indian tradition, caste is a modern phenomenon--the product of a concrete historical encounter between India and British colonial rule. Dirks does not contend that caste was invented by the British. But under British domination caste did become a single term capable of naming and above all subsuming India's diverse forms of social identity and organization.

Dirks traces the career of caste from the medieval kingdoms of southern India to the textual traces of early colonial archives; from the commentaries of an eighteenth-century Jesuit to the enumerative obsessions of the late-nineteenth-century census; from the ethnographic writings of colonial administrators to those of twentieth-century Indian scholars seeking to rescue ethnography from its colonial legacy. The book also surveys the rise of caste politics in the twentieth century, focusing in particular on the emergence of caste-based movements that have threatened nationalist consensus.

Castes of Mind is an ambitious book, written by an accomplished scholar with a rare mastery of centuries of Indian history and anthropology. It uses the idea of caste as the basis for a magisterial history of modern India. And in making a powerful case that the colonial past continues to haunt the Indian present, it makes an important contribution to current postcolonial theory and scholarship on contemporary Indian politics.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691088952
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
09/17/2001
Pages:
328
Product dimensions:
6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.87(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Abbreviations xv

PART ONE: THE "INVENTION" OF CASTE 1

One: Introduction: The Modernity of Caste 3

Two: Homo Hierarchicus: The Origins of an Idea 19

Three: The Ethnographic State 43

PART TWO: COLONIZATION OF THE ARCHIVE 61

Four: The Original Caste: Social Identity in the Old Regime 63

Five: The Textualization of Tradition: Biography of an Archive 81

Six: The Imperial Archive: Colonial Knowledge and Colonial Rule 107

PART THREE: THE ETHNOGRAPHIC STATE 125

Seven: The Conversion of Caste 127

Eight: The Policing of Tradition: Colonial Anthropology and the Invention of Custom 149

Nine: The Body of Caste: Anthropology and the Criminalization of Caste 173

Ten: The Enumeration of Caste: Anthropology as Colonial Rule 198

PART FOUR: RECASTING INDIA: CASTE, COMMUNITY, AND POLITICS 229

Eleven: Toward a Nationalist Sociology of India: Nationalism and Brahmanism 231

Twelve: The Reformation of Caste: Periyar, Ambedkar, and Gandhi 255

Thirteen: Caste Politics and the Politics of Caste 275

Fourteen: Conclusion: Caste and the Postcolonial Predicament 297

Coda: The Burden of the Past: On Colonialism and the Writing of History 303

Notes 317

Index 359

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