To save content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save content items to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Du Bois edited and wrote the introductory chapter to the NAACP document An Appeal to the World: A Statement of Denial of Rights to Minorities, submitted to the United Nations in October 1947. In his introduction, he argued that the “color caste system” had been disastrous for American democracy. After the North’s victory in the Civil War, Northern capitalism’s financial stake in cheap slave labor led it to participate in enforcing a racial caste system keeping African Americans in economic and political subjugation. The domination of the American economy by big business and monopolies on land and natural resources explain why democracy has been crippled throughout the country, with mass disenfranchisement of African Americans and many whites, especially in the South. The denial of African Americans’ right to vote means a failure of democracy in the world’s leading democracy and in the world. The disproportionate power granted the most anti-democratic elements in American society perverted American foreign policy in favor of imperialism, against the League of Nations, and against weaker nations. With the UN based in New York, American racial discrimination infringes the rights of all peoples and has become a matter of international concern.
Ancient and medieval India (prior to ca. 1600) produced a vast literature dealing with the nature of the human being, the proper ordering of society, and ethical and legal norms. Sanskrit sources tend to emphasize special dignities belonging to particular statuses according to a divinely ordained class hierarchy (varṇa-dharma). But in some contexts we hear of universally shared aspects of the human condition. Ascetic and devotional movements call into question special dignities tied to ascriptive rank. Sanskrit texts on good governance formulate general standards of justice and equity that could cut across or bypass rank. Thus, Hindu sources illustrate how ethical and legal orders find ways to compartmentalize: to recognize that all people can share basic capacities does not automatically sweep the field clear of status dignity. This essay draws on Jeremy Waldron’s concept of human dignity as a status claim that “levels up” by attributing to all people a dignity once reserved for a privileged few. We note Hindu examples of a similar approach, as well as examples of “leveling down” by pointing out the hypocrisy of elites while extolling the virtues of which the lowly are capable.
This article discusses the Habermasian public sphere as a realm constructed through communication and offers a critique of Jürgen Habermas's concept of an intersubjectively shared lifeworld among the participants as a fundamental prerequisite for communicative rationality in the discursive field. The article contends that the emergence of communicative rationality in the public sphere is unlikely to be facilitated by a singular and unitary modern public whose participants have commensurable languages and worlds. This argument is elaborated through an analysis of a public debate that occurred on August 10, 1888, between the Mahajan (headman) of the Modh Baniya caste council and Mohandas K. Gandhi, a Modh Baniya himself. Even though the discussion involved two people with an intersubjectively shared lifeworld, who were engaged in the deliberation as equals, the dialogue broke down, deepening divides. This article argues that the need to protect the spiritual domain from the polluting touch of the material domain led to the breakdown of communicative rationality.
This article examines the postcolonial Indian state's 20-year-long discretionary passports policy until 1967, often in collaboration with the British government in its efforts to limit growing numbers of Indian immigrants. While a vast scholarship has shown the racialized limits to mobility perpetuated by the passport and visa system against ‘coloured immigrants’, this article considers the Indian state's own restrictions over the emigration of a particular category of its ‘undesirable’ citizens. This passport regime was based on Indian diplomatic notions of the ‘international’ realm as one shaped by the journeys of migrants and imbued with discourses of indenture qua caste. The Indian state sought to prevent the mobility of ‘lower’ caste and class migrants who were deemed to be legatees of the dreaded ‘coolie’ and therefore unworthy of travelling abroad as representatives of India. Such a reading of the postcolonial Indian passport as a document of caste and class privilege goes beyond the existing literature which largely focuses on its use in the context of partition. In so doing, this article posits the histories and afterlives of indenture as a constitutive element in the making of Indian diplomacy, demonstrating that a focus on indenture facilitates a much-needed recovery of the narratives and euphemisms of caste in Indian diplomacy.
The second half of the nineteenth century was marked by regular famines and scarcities in India, and famine public works were one of the chief ways for the colonial state to provide relief. Famine public works involved labourers, including a large number of women, working in the construction of railways, roads, canals, and tanks in return for a subsistence wage. The present article contextualizes the practices of famine public works, especially the segregation of famine public works into large departmental and village works, within the intersecting processes of labour, caste, and gender. Drawing on evidence from North Western Provinces and Punjab, the article makes two arguments. First, it shows that segregation in famine works was driven by a shared understanding of the dominant castes and colonial state regarding labour, property, and caste which ensured that village works were reserved for dominant castes. A relational definition of labour was central to the construction of caste respectability on famine works. Second, by comparing the sex ratio of labourers in the two kinds of famine works, the article argues that women's labour was not merely a marker of caste, but constitutive of it.
This article argues that from circa 1845–1857, British colonial officials and administrators, abetted by Protestant missionaries and some so-called ‘native Christians’, attempted to replace Brahmanical regulation of everyday life with what I am calling ‘governance by conscience’ in British India. It uses the 1851 legal ruling in Narayen Ramchundur versus Luxmeebae, hailed by some for bringing ‘liberty of conscience’ and condemned by others as a wanton violation of Hindu personal law, to elucidate the connections between the Caste Disabilities Removal Act of 1850 (Act XXI) and education. My analysis highlights the centrality of Brahman wives and gender to debates about conscience, caste, property, and Christian conversion. During the violent summer of 1857, some condemned the Act and its use in deciding the case of Narayen Ramchundur versus Luxmeebae as provocation for the traumatic disorders then threatening to dismantle Britain's Indian empire.
Asking what it means to remember 1857 in India today, this chapter relies on semi-structured interviews and participant observation at commemoration ceremonies hosted in Uttar Pradesh during the conflict’s 160th anniversary in 2017–2018 to argue that memory is deeply fragmented and fractured along contemporary sociopolitical fault lines. In this regard, contemporary commemoration of 1857 once again tells us more about the present than it does about the past and may be used as a prism through which to understand the rise of identity politics in India which, from the onset of the post-Congress polity, has come to characterise the political landscape of India. Accordingly, whilst a cursory analysis of how 1857 is commemorated seems to reveal a national consensus on what it means to remember the First War of Independence, a detailed analysis reveals the extent to which memory remains as contingent and contested today as it always has been.
The United States is a nation of immigrants. Most immigrants came to America because they wanted to come, but African immigrants were forcibly brought to America by their captors. They differed from other immigrants because they were captives who could not choose their place of residence, and they became enslaved people in the colonies and early United States. This book brings those neglected immigrants into the mainstream of American economic history by describing what happened to them as the economy developed.
This article examines the recent political history of the Devendrakula Vellalars (henceforth, Devendras). Officially recognized by the state and union governments in 2020 and 2021, this novel consolidated caste formation includes a broad range of formerly endogamous ‘Untouchable’ communities spread throughout Tamil Nadu but most highly concentrated in its southern half. I argue that the communities constituting the Devendras have been socio-economically diverse for at least the past century and thus do not necessarily share the same political priorities. They have, nonetheless, attempted to unite in opposition to the politically powerful Thevars (Other Backward Class or OBC) who are themselves a consolidated caste formation that grew out of colonial domination. The Devendras's economic diversity has, however, troubled their oppositional political consolidation, compelling the production of revisionist mythico-histories that appeal to widely held desires for authority and honour. Disavowing the Dalit past and recasting the Devendras as the descendants of heroes, such mythico-histories produce a collective identity characterized by the ideals of righteous self-sacrifice, valour, and agrarian civility. Devendras's identarian claims are, however, reliant on the acceptance of internal and external audiences, some of which violently oppose their assertions. They nevertheless seek recognition, and in so doing empower themselves by gathering strength in numbers.
This chapter suggests that the cosmopolitanism of convicts, ex-convict settlers, and their descendants rendered penal colonies ideal places for investigations into the human sciences, and for the development of social science research methods. Administrators and visitors carried out innovative statistical and ethnographic studies in punitive locations, triangulating medical records, and anthropometric measurement with surveys, questionnaires, and interviews. The focus of attention of such research included the pathology of criminal behaviour, the social, cultural, and biological impacts of transportation, and sexuality. In some cases, it emerged out of a concern with the merits or otherwise of penal colonization. In others, it contributed to and shaped contemporary debates on race and, in the Indian context, caste. This can be seen in the analysis of the work of French naval surgeon Joseph Orgéas, in French Guiana; Anton Chekhov’s famous study of Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East; and censuses in the Andaman Islands. Finally, the chapter examines Franck Cazanove’s study of sexuality in the relégué(e) (repeat offender) settlement of Saint-Jean-du-Maroni in French Guiana. Inadvertently, though focused on ‘depravity’, it reveals much about same-sex cohabitation, marriage, and love.
It is generally acknowledged that Hinduism, as the name of a distinct religion, did not exist before the nineteenth century. Before that, “Hindu” had simply meant “Indian” and encompassed a variety of beliefs and practices (diffuse spirituality). There were also indigenous “Thomas Christians” dating from the 1st century CE. When missionaries arrived, lower caste groups found Christianity attractive. A sea-change occurred around the nineteenth century when Westerners found “Hinduism” to be incurably superstitious. Indians responded by reforming their practices (towards concentrated spirituality). Christianity continued to appeal to marginalized groups such as women, untouchables, and aboriginal ethnic groups. Hindu nationalists continue to view Christianity with suspicion.
The idea of Indian degeneracy or stagnancy was crucial to the case of Ramaswamy Aiyan v. Venkata Achari (1863), which is the focus of the third chapter. While the actual substance of the case concerned the distribution of rights and profits associated with temple management, I suggest that the Privy Council’s engagement with the case served a larger ideological function. The petty squabble between the various sects of Brahmins functioned in the case as a metaphor for the decadent system of caste itself. Over the course of the chapter I show how the very existence of the dispute became evidence of the dysfunction of Indian modes of social and temporal organization. Highlighting the political ramifications of narrative constructions, the Privy Council’s opinion worked to render Indian history as irremediably tainted, and Indian religion as riddled with superstition and irrationality. The case thus reveals the ambivalent interactions between Indian social and temporal organization and British concepts of historicity. Though the case deals explicitly with questions of religion, I suggest that the force of the opnion extends to secular temporalities and teleologies as well.
Three important features of Indian labor markets enduringly coexist: rent-seeking, occupational immobility, and caste. These facts are puzzling, given theories that predict static, equilibrium social inequality without conflict. Our model explains these facts as an equilibrium outcome. Some people switch caste-associated occupations for an easier source of rents, rather than for productivity. This undermines trust between castes and shuts down occupational mobility, which further encourages rent-seeking due to an inability of workers to sort into occupations. We motivate our contribution with novel stylized facts exploiting a unique survey question on casteism in India, which we show is associated with rent-seeking.
This essay traces the colonial origins of the concept of endogamy and its history as a foundational idea in the modern study of society in South Asia. The history of the concept of endogamy reveals how the control of female sexuality shaped the overlapping fields of Indology and ethnology. The invention and deployment of endogamy in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is discussed in the writings of key colonial writers and British administrators, such as J. F. McLennan and H. H. Risley, and Indian intellectuals, including S. V. Ketkar and B. R. Ambedkar. It argues that the modern study of caste naturalized the control of female sexuality through the uncritical use of the concept of endogamy, which Ambedkar diagnosed as the irresolvable problem of the “Surplus Woman” in 1917. The essay reflects on the long life of endogamy and the enduring problem of nonconjugal sexuality in modern social theories of South Asia.
Though films on Shakespeare have been made in India since 1923, it is Vishal Bhardwaj’s tragic trilogy, Maqbool (2004), Omkara (2006) and Haider (2014) that has caught international critical attention. The essay examines Bhardwaj’s predilection for Shakespeare, the reception of his films and his auteur’s style of filmmaking and adaptation, which straddles both the global and the local. It argues that his remaking of Shakespeare deploys popular features of Bollywood cinema, e.g. adding back stories and songs, but adjusts them to enable the narrative of the plays to speak to the situations of today. His versions radicalise the women, intervene in Indian contexts and modify the tragic endings. They reflect a poetic sensibility that delves deep into Shakespeare to produce perceptive and layered cinematic visualisations of the plays.
Chapter 2 highlights the understudied literary genre of the memoir. I focus on the writings of the peripatetic activist-intellectual Manabendra Nath ‘M.N.’ Roy. Exploring his diverse engagements with early twentieth-century Black radicalism in the United States and anticolonialism in Mexico, the Soviet Union, China, and Germany, my reading of Memoirs ‘1964’ illuminates how literary form negotiates the politics of anticolonial internationalism. Roy contributed to the debates of the Communist International, famously differing with Vladimir Lenin on the “National and Colonial Questions.” Roy also posited the imbrication of race and caste through his critique of cultural nationalism in India. An icon of the interwar era, Roy’s formulations in India in Transition ‘1922’ complicate both Euro-American universalism and the influential paradigm of decoloniality that favors postcolonial nationalism in terms of its cultural difference from the West.
Under colonial rule, the Nattukottai Chettiar or Nakarattar caste organized themselves into a complex, segmentary network of interdependent family merchant-banking firms. Each firm traded individually in commodities trading, money lending, domestic and overseas banking operations, or industrial investment. But beyond this - making possible every other commercial venture in which it engaged - each family firm operated as a commercial bank: taking money on deposit and drafting hundis and other financial instruments for use in the transfer of loanable capital to branch offices and to other banks. As a result, every Nakarattar firm was tied together with all of the others to form a unified banking system, playing a major role in the credit markets of South Asia and the Indian Ocean rim.
The paper explores mobilization to reduce the deepest inequalities in the two largest democracies, those along caste lines in India and racial lines in the United States. I compare how the groups at the bottom of these ethnic hierarchies—India's former untouchable castes (Dalits) and African Americans—mobilized from the 1940s to the 1970s in pursuit of full citizenship: the franchise, representation, civil rights, and social rights. Experiences in two regions of historically high inequality (the Kaveri and Mississippi Deltas) are compared in their national contexts. Similarities in demographic patterns, group boundaries, socioeconomic relations, regimes, and enfranchisement timing facilitate comparison. Important differences in nationalist and civic discourse, official and popular social classification, and stratification patterns influenced the two groups’ mobilizations, enfranchisement, representation, alliances, and relationships with political parties. The nation was imagined to clearly include Dalits earlier in India than to encompass African Americans in the United States. Race was the primary and bipolar official and popular identity axis in the United States, unlike caste in India. African Americans responded by emphasizing racial discourses while Dalit mobilizations foregrounded more porously bordered community visions. These different circumstances enabled more widespread African American mobilization, but offered Dalits more favorable interethnic alliances, party incorporation, and policy accommodation, particularly in historically highly unequal regions. Therefore, group representation and policy benefits increased sooner and more in India than in the United States, especially in regions of historically high group inequality such as the Kaveri and other major river Deltas relative to the Deep South, including Mississippi.
In this chapter, the author describes language as a location and the site of belonging, as well as a political tool for the empowering of one linguistic over another within a particular province and nation. It also describes the struggle to link Muslims with Urdu, thereby isolating both and deepening existing fractures in society, alongside attempts to privilege Sanskrit over all other ancient and modern languages.
The chapter examines the reputation of the state of Uttar Pradesh, and especially that of the eastern districts, the region around Azamgarh and Mau, as being lawless and particularly linked to gangs and goons. It looks at potential causes of the tarnished reputation of the Purbia from the perspective of historic neglect, caste, feudalism and the inroads made by criminals into politics through being elected as representatives.