Author: Susan Bayly
Publisher: Cambridge University press
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0521678617
The phenomenon of caste has probably aroused more controversy than any other aspect of Indian life and thought. Some scholars see India’s caste system as the defining feature of Indian culture, although it is dismissed by others as a colonial artefast. Susan Bayly’s cogent and sophisticated analysis explores the emergence of the ideas, experiences and practices which gave rise to so-called caste society over a period of 350 years, from the pre-colonial period to the end of the twentieth century. Combining historical and anthropological approaches, Bayly frames her analysis within the context of India’s dynamic economic and social order.
She thereby interprets caste not as the essence of Indian culture and civilization, but rather as a contingent and variable response to the enormous changes that occurred in the subcontinent’s political landscape both before and after colonial conquest. In subsequent chapters, she explores the idea of caste in relation to Indian and Western orientalist thought, and the upheavals associated with competing understanding s of Indian nationalism and the creation of the modern Indian nation state. The book’s wide-ranging and rigorous analysis offers one of the most powerful statements yet to be written on caste in South Asia.
What emerges is an extraordinarily nuanced understanding of caste that satisfies the historian and provokes the social anthropologist the book is extraordinary in the diversity of themes that it handles and the chronological span it covers. What makes it particularly readable is its engaging style, clarity and lucidity that has come to characterize Bayly’s scholarship.
-Dr Seema Alavi in The Book Review
Susan Bayly’s majestic treatise.
LIST OF PLATES
GENERAL EDITOR’S PREFACE
Map-1: The break-up of the Mughal Empire, c 1766
Map-2: British India, 1858-1947
Map-3: India after Independence, 1956-1987
Historical origins of a caste society
The Brahman Raj: kings and service people c 1700-1830
Western orientalists and the colonial perceptions of caste
Caste and the modern nation: incubus or essence?
The everyday experience of caste in colonial India
Caste debate and the emergence of Gandhian nationalism
State policy and reservations: the Politicisation of caste-based social welfare schemes
Caste in the everyday life of independent India
Caste wars and the mandate of violence