Global Asia Studies – Lecture 5
o The lecture is based on two parts: Part 1 – How status is determined? and Part 2 –
How status is shown?
o What is status in a society?
Status is a position one holds within a society.
In reading 5.1 focuses on how status is primarily determined
It is based essentially on hierarchy and follows a caste system based on purity:
1. Everyone is ranked ; Ranking is based on birth (jati) which is the birth
place (being judged by placement at birth)
2. Every member of society is ranked, according to their occupations, in a
pecking order of power
Hereditary groups are distinguished from one another and connected together by 3
a. Separation in matters of marriage and contact, whether direct or indirect (such
b. Division of labour, each group having, in theory or by tradition, a profession
from which its members can depart only within certain limits.
c. Hierarchy, which ranks the groups as relatively superior or inferior to one
It can be separated by stuff like marriage or contact
There can be division by occupation status
Hierarchy ranks superiority/inferiority
Another type of ranking is ranking though the 4 orders of power, varoeas:
a. Brahmin (priest / scholar)
b. Kshatriya (king, warrior)
c. Vaisya (merchant, farmer)
d. Sudra (servant)
e. Plus those below the ranking, once termed 'untouchables', now 'harijan'
According to what you do can change your ranking
Brahmin (priests) take higher power than the king
Jati’s change across the regions – Varnas system is relatively
simple, seen across the regions
Meat eating is generally seen as not pure but a meat eating
warrior is higher up in the status when compared to a servant who
eats nothing but vegetables
o How is status revealed or shown in society?
Some examples of ways in which people reveal status is through uniforms,
through their physical appearance (facial hair – adulthood), and race and
o Reading 5.2 - The use of appearance to show status, especially the hair and how it
relates to status within society
Grammar of body to the grammar of language
Fashion change = appearance change There was 3 modes of hair of South Asia:
1. Groomed – marks membership of normal society
2. Unkempt – loose or dishelved hair marks departure (permanent or
temporary – menstruating women or funerals) in normal society
3. Completely shaven – demonstrates purity and marks a separation
from society or a purification on entry/re-entry into society
Believed to be a return of innocence of a child and dependent on
Example: widow shaving her head to mark clear what has
happened to her
o The EXCEPTIONS to this structure:
Sikh males who should not cut his hair since uncut hair is marker of being part
It indicates that the male is part of the household and is also a holy man at the
o Clothing in India has drastically changed over the years. It has had a variety of mixed
reactions of the European way of clothing that has now been incorporated into
The variety of responses include: complete rejection of it, a half-way measure
between it or a part-time combination
Before the European influence Indian clothing were manufacture by fabric, and
manufacture into garment.
a. South Asian hand-spun and hand-woven khadi cloth
Imported machine-spun and machine-woven cloth
b. Prior to European contact, most South Asian clothing required no or
Imported clothing heavily tailored.
In Hindu context, uncut, unstitched cloth was considered less permeable to
By late 19 century, stitched clothing was appearing due to the European
influence and there was an increase in viewed as more sophisticated way of
Example: Men’s safari suit was imposed – way of European solution to
being in the tropics of India
Another adjustment – hats (solar tope or pith helmet)