Working Paper: Caste Decoded

India’s Untouchables is a fine introduction on for Western readers, exploring the reality of a system which the emancipated world rightfully finds revolting.

Written by Pratik Kanjilal | Published:April 1, 2017 12:26 am
India’s Untouchables, Caste Decoded, Gwendolyn Simpson Chabrier, book review India’s Untouchables

Name: India’s Untouchables
Author: Gwendolyn Simpson Chabrier
Creative Crows Publishers
267 pages
Price: Rs 549

Since the Uttar Pradesh verdict is being read as the sundering of lower caste consolidation, perhaps it is time to re-examine caste, and see if it has ceased to be the engine of political assertion. Chabrier’s book is a rapid reader on caste, a phenomenon which was seen through a Western lens, to the extent that a borrowed Portuguese word serves us as the portmanteau term for jati, varna and profession. India’s Untouchables is a fine introduction on for Western readers, exploring the reality of a system which the emancipated world rightfully finds revolting. It catalogues the complications of the system, which is revealed by graduated social responses to transgression, from rebuke to ostracism and filicide. Western diplomacy has tried to equate caste with race, which is a mistake. It cannot be defeated if we do not know the nature of the beast.

But the book, well received in the European press, can also serve as a rapid reader for Indians, especially NRIs. It is well-organised, covers all bases and opens the door to readers wishing to go deeper into a forbiddingly complicated subject.

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