Bajind Advanced Search Find a Library. She discusses the range of patriarchal practices within the larger framework of sexuality, labour and access to material resources, and also focuses on the centrality of endogamous marriages that chakrzvarti the system. Common terms and phrases Ambedkar anti-Mandal agitation argued Bhakti brahmana brahmanical patriarchy brahmanical texts Buddhist caste and class caste and gender caste status caste system caste-based century B. Suparna marked it as to-read Jan 20, You already recently rated this item.

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A Note from the Series Editor [Page ix] Gendering Caste in India This series presents introductory texts to draw in readers outside academia as well as for those inside it.

Many feminist theories originated in the West and therefore reflected the social and cultural background of the writers and the nature of social configurations within which they sought explanations. Dominant features like the nuclear family, advanced capitalism, different marriage patterns and cultural ethos naturally shape their understanding of women in society in the beginning they omitted race.

More relevant for us are the family, immediate and extended; security; an economy in transition to capitalism; a deeply hierarchic society stratified by class and caste; and persistent conflicts over religion, language, ethnicity and other differences.

Scholars here have used standard feminist theories in innovative and imaginative ways, modifying them, elaborating them and offering us a comparative perspective. Hence a very important aim of this series is to bring together Third World feminism and feminist theorizing in the broad sense of conceptualizing social reality.

Each book is meant to be self-sufficient in itself and yet cumulatively add to the theory-building. As each is written by a different author, the style would vary. The constituent essays in the series are not repetitive but additive.

It has brought to the forefront a fundamental dilemma: we began by a strong notion of universal sisterhood and now we realize [Page x]there are divergent interests among us. How do we reconcile them? From saying we are tied by a common bond of oppression to saying we do not have the same kind of oppression, are we stranded in theory?

Gendering Caste by Uma Chakravarti was the first systematic attempt to work out the interface between caste and gender.

Delving into historical sources, religious texts, anthropological and sociological literature, Uma shows how gender is critical to the formation of caste. It is truly an astounding piece of interdisciplinary work.

Caste as the bulwark of Indian society that has persisted despite many transformations has been much written about, debated about but we had hitherto lacked the theoretical framework to show that gender constituted caste.

The first edition originally published in has been very successful, reprinted three times. Because of the ways caste has changed and gender is perceived during the years since the book was published, a revised edition was in order. Sexuality, hitherto not aired in India, has come to the fore. Its connection to pervasive violence against women has demonstrated the ideological and material hold of patriarchy in its manifest forms. Feminists had resorted to reform of laws and of law enforcing agencies.

With her training in history, and her knowledge of Pali, she has over the years retrieved our past through a feminist sensibility. Gendering Caste contains immense erudition.

She has covered a vast historical and geographical territory and given us not only a brilliant account of the link between caste and gender but also helps us to see the transformations in the manifestation of caste across regions and across social groups.

Patriarchy in India, Uma explains, is in the plural and the word is used as an adjective , not a monolithic unchanging system. It has checks and balances. She emphasizes the building and maintenance of patriarchy as an ongoing process. Her opening paragraph gives us a jolt. Upper caste women may face gender oppression but they also gain the privileges of belonging to a higher caste and will defend those privileges.

Caste is extraordinarily successful in dividing women, in erasing a possibility of sisterhood. Such sisterhood can emerge only, Uma thinks, and I would agree, when we eliminate caste. That does not do away with other divisions like class or ethnicity, but these again are other battles.

The displaying of caste symbols, many protagonists of brahmanism hold, is innocent and merely vouchsafes brahmana identity. How could it be innocuous? Those symbols are laden with meanings of hierarchy.

Yet to discard these is seen as becoming western, forsaking Indian tradition. Hinduism has a dilemma: caste is so inextricably bound up with it. All our rituals, all life-cycle ceremonies, all worship, all daily life activities are permeated with it. What remains of me as a practising Hindu if I throw out caste?

Only the philosophy? These are things to ponder on. Uma now has brought out an Afterword to her earlier work to make sense of many changes that are taking place in [Page xii]present day India. There is now conflict between the upper castes and the castes lowest in the caste hierarchy earlier dubbed as untouchables because they were assigned work that was dirty like manual scavenging, removal of dead carcasses of animals. They had to live outside the village or living habitats of other higher castes.

The caste system is an ingenious hierarchy, multi-tiered, where someone can be found to be lower than you. For example, the mahars and mangs both dalits, observe a hierarchy between them in Maharashtra.

As the French anthropologist Louis Dumont called it, we are Homo hierarchicus. The Constitution proclaimed equality to all citizens of India regardless of caste, class and gender. It remains an unfinished agenda, a utopia against the ground reality. Wielders of power are always reluctant to forego their privileges. Hence to dislodge their assumed superiority entrenched over centuries, to acquire the equality enshrined in the Constitution, violent conflict became inevitable.

Caste and gender continues to occupy the present economic, political and social domains given the fact that violence is an endemic and structural feature of the caste system. The Constitution abolished untouchability technically as a practice but the law could not undo the practice.

To gain the rights guaranteed to them, dalits have had to resort to various forms of resistance. Their resistance stems from their attempts to counter the unchallenged power of the upper castes. This power is supported by the administration, the magistrates and the police which are predominantly manned by the dominant castes who are not merely the erstwhile brahmanas but those below them who hold substantial economic and political power.

Assertion of dalits for their legal equality provokes resistance by the dominant castes who have unleashed extreme violence. There is a pattern to the retaliation by the dominant castes.

Uma narrates several instances in recent years where outright lynching of individual or family of dalits, or whole communities, has taken place.

Uma points out that women are at the heart of the conflict as protagonists and as victims. We will not take it lying down.

The message was: how dare a dalit woman protest against an obscene gesture and claim to have bodily integrity? Court verdict tells us that even though the law maintained its monopoly to punish crimes, it did not displace the monopoly of the dominant castes to rape, kill, dalit women. Uma says the law might punish the accused but does not acknowledge that sexual violence is central to caste domination.

Uma feels that it is social silence and social scientists not recognizing sexual violence as a tool to retain dominance of upper castes that prevents the effectiveness of law. Schooling has given girls some exposure to the public sphere. Endogamy the practice of marriage within caste is primarily the instrument for retaining caste. Uma ends with the [Page xiv]hope that the emergence of committed young men and women taking over from former tired old leaders would transform politics.

There lies our hope. My immeasurable gratitude to Uma and to Mandira: I believe generations of students and young men and women to come will feel enriched by this text and hopefully build on it. Series Editor Acknowledgements [Page xv] This work would never have been written but for the gentle and persistent pressure that Maithreyi Krishnaraj applied upon me for all of four years, stoking my own pangs of guilt. She also read the first draft and made extensive comments, making many useful suggestions that ran into many typed pages.

Throughout the period of writing and revising, it was clear that Maithreyi not only read the work closely but also identified with the project totally. Its completion is as much her achievement as has been my input into sustaining the writing through a very trying period—personally and politically.

Geetha and Gopal Guru also read and commented on an earlier draft; I have tried to incorporate their suggestions as comprehensively as possible. Pratiksha Baxi read the first draft and made important comments. In addition, she allowed me to use material from her doctoral work. This is rare generosity and I am deeply grateful to her for her gesture of solidarity and for the long and insightful discussions we had as the work was being completed.

I owe a debt to Ambedkar for his insights in linking caste and gender. His work on endogamy made possible my work on the role played by gender in constituting caste. Others have contributed to my understanding of caste over many decades. Sharing life with Anand Chakravarti as he did his first stint of fieldwork in Rajasthan in —65 introduced me to the lived reality of caste in rural India.

On hindsight I am glad that I am a historian and he a sociologist—it is these two disciplines that have informed this work. Aloysius, Tripta Wahi and Vijay Singh who have kept a close watch on caste discrimination in the University campus of Delhi , Sanjay Misra and Kumar Sanjay Singh compatriots in our attempts to create alternate opinion during the virulence of the anti-Mandal agitation at the University of Delhi and Tanika and Sumit Sarkar.

I am grateful to all of them. I would like to thank Subhash Ghatade, Rajesh, and Ranjana who have taken a sustained interest in caste issues and helped to mobilize on a variety of issues on caste and gender in Delhi.

Pandian, Rajni Tilak and Hemant. Presentations on caste and gender were made at a conference on Ambedkar at Pune University and in special lectures at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, and at the University of Bombay. I am grateful to all those who participated in the discussion on these occasions. I have also used the work of a very large number of people in writing this book whom I cannot list here but would like to acknowledge their contribution to understanding both caste and gender, even as the connections between the two have not always been drawn out.

And, finally, I am thankful to my family for supporting my work, Srikant for organising my life, Siddhartha, who lives far away, but worries about what stands I take in repressive times though he generally approves of what I write and approves too of my being a feminist; I am grateful to Anuja for physical and emotional sustenance and especially, for her capacity to make one laugh even during difficult times.

Athadeep Aman, the little boy at home also makes me laugh and lets me see the face of hope and affection for everyone, no matter who they are. I must also acknowledge the many, many readers of this book, mostly students of universities, some of whom are first generation students, women and men, who have kept the book in print since ; it is for them that I have written an Afterword, an update on gendering caste as it unfolds today.

Or as a mere circle of marriage practices with no relationship to hierarchy or power. Or it is regarded as preventing us from becoming good scientists and doctors because our institutions are infected with the virus of caste-based reservations. Often it is regarded as forcing us into a denial of our secular modernity through fixing us into categories of forwards, backwards, most backwards, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

The complexity of the structure and its relationship to hierarchy, material basis and to violence is even more difficult to recognize, especially by those who occupy privileged positions in the system. For women and men who occupy the lower end of caste hierarchies, however, recognition of these structures occur from childhood; analysis may then seem an unnecessary intellectualism because the lower castes experience caste in their everyday lives much more directly, much more palpably.

What may still be useful is to outline the relationship [Page ]between caste and gender so that we may find ways of addressing their workings jointly rather than severally.


Gendering Caste: Through a Feminist Lens

Start your review of Gendering Caste: Through a Feminist Lens Write a review Dec 07, Saniya Puri rated it really liked it Systematically organized and exhaustively researched, Gendering Caste: Through a Feminist Lens is a well-rounded discussion on divergent feminist interests. It moves from common bond of oppression that women face universally towards a more diversified form of oppression and struggle that delineates gender inequality intersected by caste. Maithreyi Krishnaraj, series editor states that Patriarchy in India, Uma explains, is in the plural and the word is used as an adjective , not a monolithic Systematically organized and exhaustively researched, Gendering Caste: Through a Feminist Lens is a well-rounded discussion on divergent feminist interests. This chapter highlights as to how gender and caste are inextricably linked, thus reproducing the structure of oppression many folds. The book also explicitly derives that caste is responsible for dividing women and erasing a possibility of a sisterhood amongst women. Uma Chakravarti traces this argument and takes it forward through an organized research on different levels.


Uma Chakravarti


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