Castes of Mind
Castes of Mind
The Original Caste
This chapter discusses the importance of caste in understanding India and Hinduism. In comparative sociology and in common parlance, caste has become a central metaphor for India. A long history of writing, such as the general anthropology of Louis Dumont, has identified caste as the basic form and expression of Indian society. Caste has been seen as always there in Indian history and as one of the major reasons why the country has no history, or at least no sense of history. Caste defines the core of Indian tradition, and caste is today the major threat to Indian modernity. Theories of caste are not only about society but also about politics and history. The chapter reflects on caste in relation to religion, politics, orientalism, and colonialism. It also examines Colin Mackenzie's role in the rescuing of southern India's precolonial historiography, along with the debate over H. H. Risley's emphasis on the racial basis of caste. Finally, it argues that the history of discourses on caste cannot be separated from the full institutional history of British colonialism.
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