Accepted Paper:

Casting Doubt: The trouble of writing about shifting caste and social movements in contemporary India  


Andrew McDowell (CNRS)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines caste social movements and the difficulties their work to obtain dignity through changed position in hierarchy pose for anthropological representation of caste and social hierarchy. It wonders about the anthropological politics representing hierarchical typological systems.

Paper long abstract:

In a village in Rajasthan, India shifting politics of dignity and naming practice have resulted in a radical change in caste identity in the last 30 years. Leaving no family untouched, this politics has shifted once low caste and indigenous families toward the upper caste Hindu main stream while preventing access to state resources and having long term health effects by limiting access to medical care and food rations. It poses enormous problems of representation and anthropological questions about how to represent a secreted historical social identity and its contemporary effects. How do we write of social hierarchies without reproducing their aesthetic and evaluative hierarchies? How do we maintain the important social and experienced dignity won by these politics while recognising that they have occurred? This paper examines histories of caste in contemporary India to identify pitfalls and propose tentative solutions.

Panel P142
Sorting, typing, classifying: the elephants in 'our' rooms [Anthropology of Race and Ethnicity Network; Medical Anthropology Network] [Roundtable]