Accepted Paper:

Brahmin power: an historical anthropology of Brahmin violence  

Author:

Gajendran Ayyathurai (Goettingen University, Germany )

Paper short abstract:

Engaging vernacular archives, brahminical religious texts, and recent historical anthropological studies, this paper examines the emergence of brahmin power in late colonial India and oppressed people's counter hegemonic discursive against brahmin violence.

Paper long abstract:

Caste has remained an institution of cultural and political maneuvers since colonial times in South Asia. Scholarly studies have shown that the colonial anthropologists' and Indologists' fascination with varnas and jatis (caste classifications) served racialized colonial motives, on the one hand. On the other, they point to the emergence of brahmins as a preeminent community from colonial times into post-colonial India. However, what has not been adequately examined is how the crystallization of brahmin power, underpinning the ironic emergence of "brahmin as modern," has turned brahmins into violent practitioners of caste-based discrimination and "historic deprivations" in Indian society. Engaging vernacular archives, brahminical religious texts, and recent historical anthropological studies this paper argues that the ascendance of brahmins, brahminism, has depended on symbolic and real violence and systematic deprivation of certain people as its Other, as untouchables, then and now. The critical questions which animate this paper are: how and in what ways brahmin groups have acquired and inherited power over all others they discriminated, such as lower castes and untouchables; how have those who were discriminated as untouchables responded to brahmin power in late colonial India?

Panel P033
Towards a transnational anthropology of power: legacies and linkages of caste, race, and gender