The Culturalization of Caste in India: Identity and Inequality in a Multicultural Age
ISBN 9780415857864, 2012. Routledge. 232 Pages

In India, caste groups ensure their durability in an era of multiculturalism by officially representing caste as cultural difference or ethnicity rather than as unequal descent-based relations. Challenging dominant social theories of caste, this book addresses questions of how caste survives the system that gave rise to it and adapts to new demands of capitalism and democracy.

Based on original fieldwork, the book shows how the terrain of culture captured by a new grammar of caste revitalizes castes as cultural communities so that the culture of a caste is produced, organized and naturalized in the process of transforming jati (fetishized blood and kinship) into samaj (fetishized culture). Castes are shown to not be homogenous cultural wholes but sites of hegemony where class, gender and hierarchy over-determine the meanings and materiality of caste.

Arguing that there exists a new casteism in India akin to a new racism in the USA, built less on biology and descent and more on purported cultural differences and their rights to exist, the book presents an extended critique and a search for an alternative view of caste and anti-casteist politics. It is of interest to students and scholars of South Asian culture and society.

Key concepts: culturalization of caste, caste as samaj

Key arguments: caste is not ethnicity; casteism continues without traditional legitimacy due to culturalization of caste; multiculturalism acts as a camouflage for normalizing caste; samaj reproduces patriarchy and class disorganization

Culturalization of Caste

Against Stigma



Against Stigma: Studies in Caste, Race and Justice since Durban. 

Balmurli Natrajan and Paul Greenough, editors. ISBN: 9788125036005, 2009. Orient Blackswan. 504 pages. 

Historical barriers still inhibit comparative frameworks to map and challenge two of the most odious forms of discrimination―racism and casteism.  Both justify themselves on a principle of biological descent; they enable stigma as if it were a natural fact, refusing to see it as deleterious social exclusion.

Against Stigma carries fifteen essays that build upon the energies generated in scholarship as a result of the landmark 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance at Durban, South Africa.  The contributors, who represent a multiplicity of disciplines and intellectual orientations, explore comparative aspects of caste and race including conundrums of a globalized discourse and national problematics of racism and casteism.  The editors’ Introduction locates this comparative project around descent-based discrimination in a wide context; the editors suggest that globalization itself holds out the promise of more generalized practices of resistance and emancipation by oppressed national minorities.  A critical bibliography on race and caste is a bonus to students and teachers of Human Rights, Race Relations, Caste Studies and Politics of Socio-economic Exclusion. At a time when democratic movements are sweeping across the globe, Against Stigma presents a fresh selection of authoritative scholarship and instructive debates centred on race and caste, two of the most potent and divisive concepts in the histories of humanity, sociology and human governance. Read more 

peer-reviewed papers and chapters


reviews and review essays

  • Daring to Imagine Caste’s Anti-thesis‘ – Review of Anand Teltumbde, “Republic of Caste: Thinking Equality in the Time of Neoliberal Hindutva”, Economic and Political Weekly, Nov 17, 2018
  • ‘The Liberation Theologists of the Hindu Past’ – Review of Gail Omvedt, “Begumpura”, Himal Southasian, Sept, 76-78. 2008.
  • ‘Castes Cannot Be Annihilated by Dalits Alone’ – Review Essay on Anand Teltumbde’s “Anti-Imperialism and the Annihilation of Castes”, Mainstream Vol. XLIV no. 22, May 20, pp. 31-33. 2006.
  • ‘Recasteing Hinduism: A Review Essay’ – Review of Kancha Ilaiah ‘Why I Am Not A  Hindu’ and Viramma, Jocianne Racine, jean-Luc Racine “Viramma: Story of An Untouchable Woman”, South Asian Magazine of Action and Reflection no.10: 54-56. 1998.
  • Review of Waghmore, Suryakant, Civility against Caste: Dalit Politics and Citizenship in Western India, Contributions to Indian Sociology 49(3): 410-413. 2015.
  • Review of Stephanie Stocker. Caste and Equality: Friendship Patterns among Young Academics in Urban India. New York: Columbia University Press. Journal of Anthropological Research
  • Review of Subramanian, Narendra, Nation and Family: Personal Law, Cultural Pluralism, and Gendered Citizenship in India. H-Asia, H-Net Reviews. July 2016.
  • Review of K.S.Singh Diversity, Identity and Linkages: Explorations in Historical Ethnography, Contributions to Indian Sociology 47(2):314-317. 2013.
  • Review of Webster, John C.B., Religion and Dalit Liberation: An Examination of Perspectives. Journal of Asian Studies 61(1): 322-3. 2002.

popular essays