What is caste? Jati? Varna?
-caste: dividing people born into hierarchical groups based on relative purity and closeness to
-another way to organize society; to classify individuals in terms of their inherited social
-Jati: another word for caste. another way to organize society; to classify individuals in terms of
their inherited social status.
-Varna: Varna refers to a large division that includes various castes. Four Hindu castes (Brahman,
Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra). The Untouchables (called Dalit)
How have various scholars looked at the function and meaning of caste?
-one way schoalrs looked at the caste system is the economics of it
-William Wiser looked at this system
- it was a mutual/symmetrical system where people would exchange things. I give you
what you need, and you give me what you need
-Then Marx questioned who really had the advantage, and the Brahmans who had the land, had the
power in negotiations. They had a privileged direct access to the food supply
-another way to look at the caste system was religion
-Louis Dumont was using a scale or purity. Pure impure
-Brahmans were the purest sudras have the impurest
-its what you deal with physically in your manual labor. Brahmans dealt with God,
sudras were street cleaners. The more interplay you have with organic substances then the more
impure you are
(Sen) What are some of the divisive influences or sources of social inequality that Sen describes? What
are they? And why does he speak of “friendly fire” in relation to confronting inequality?
Sen sees class as a source of inequality and disparity, which includes inequality in gender, caste, region,
and community. He says class actually magnifies the impact of these above contributors to inequality.
For instance, lower class women face many more barriers than those in the privileged class. The impact
of disparity and violence is greater when the lower-caste families are also very poor.
(Caste) What is the Mandal Commission? Do you think it was or might be successful in Indian society?
-Mandal commission meant to identify backwards areas or areas that were mistreated. Now there is
affirmative action for untouchables, which is good in helpin