A Tale Begun in Other Days: Understanding Caste as Social Exclusion in India
Caste has remained a subject of intense academic inquiry. Lately, new discourses have emerged under the thematic of ‘social exclusion’ that simply extend the scope of academic discussion on caste. This paper assumes that such discourses are relatively less applied to understanding the caste system and for the same attempts to juxtapose thinking on social exclusion to understanding caste in India. Thematically, these methodological issues are dealt with by firstly, presenting a brief background to the concept of social exclusion. Secondly, the paper presents select empirical evidence on caste based discrimination to demonstrate marred ‘access’ and ‘participation’; and finally, it explains the inferences drawn from these (empirical) studies with clarificatory remarks from the theory of social exclusion. The purposes of inquiry, therefore, are to accentuate on the ‘relational’ and ‘constitutive’ dynamics of caste-based discrimination; to bring out the ‘instrumental’ importance of caste-based exclusion; and to undertake and effectual analysis of the typology of exclusion. Also, the ‘processes’, ‘agencies’ and ‘institutions’ underlying caste-based discrimination have been looked into from the perspective of the interaction and mutual reinforcement of different dimensions of disadvantage, which incorporates the ‘cultural devaluation’ of people and groups and explains how inferiority is internalized. Further, the economic aspects of exclusion; creation of multidimensional disadvantage; and the dynamics of social exclusion in social provisioning are also ascertained.
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