The Culturalization of Caste in India: Identity and Inequality in a Multicultural Age
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. Read blurbs and reviews
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
- Natrajan, Balmurli. (2021). Racialization and ethnicization: Hindutva hegemony and caste. Ethnic and Racial Studies, v. 45(2): 298-318 <pdf>
- Jacob, Suraj, Balmurli Natrajan and Ajay T.G. (2021). “‘Why don’t they use the toilet built for them’? Explaining Toilet Use in Development.” Contributions to Indian Sociology 55(1):89-115 <pdf>
- Jacob, Suraj and Balmurli Natrajan (2020). Deepening Divides: The Caste, Class and Regional Face of Vegetarianism. Economic and Political Review April 11, LV(15): 21-24 <pdf>
- Joseph, R., Natrajan, B., & Lobo, R. (2019). Domestic workers and the challenges of collectivization: labor NGOs, neighborhoods, apartment complexes . Decision, 1-11 <pdf>
- Rajesh Joseph, Roshni Lobo, and Balmurli Natrajan. (2018). “Between ‘Bakshseesh’ and ‘Bonus’: Precarity, Class, and Collective Action among Domestic Workers in Bengaluru,” Economic and Political Weekly v. LIII no. 45 pp. 38-45. November 17 <pdf>
- Natrajan, Balmurli. (2018). “Cultural Identity and Beef Festivals: Towards a ‘Multiculturalism against Caste”, Contemporary South Asia, v. 26 (3): 287-304. <pdf>
- Natrajan, Balmurli and Jacob, Suraj. “Provincializing Vegetarianism: Putting Indian Food Habits in Their Place.” (2018) Economic and Political Weekly (Special Article) vol. LIII no. 9:54-64. March. <pdf>
- Natrajan, Balmurli, Suraj Jacob, and Indira Patil. ‘Explaining Village-Level Development Trajectories through Schooling in Karnataka’, Economic and Political Weekly (Special Issue on Review of Rural Studies) vol. L, 52: 52-64. 2015. <pdf>
- Natrajan, Balmurli. (2013) ‘Punctuated Solidarities: Caste and Left Politics’, Economic and Political Weekly XLVIII no. 6, 16-19.
- Natrajan, Balmurli.‘From Jāti to Samāj’, Seminar (Delhi, India) v. 633: 54-57. 2012. <pdf>
- Natrajan, Balmurli. ‘The Problem of ‘Difference’ in Discourses of Civilization and Culture’, in The Concept of Humanity in the age of Globalization, Zhang, Longxi (ed.). Göttingen: V&R Unipress. pp. 67-82. 2012
- Natrajan, Balmurli. ‘”Practicing Hindus,” Hindutva and Multiculturalism’, in Public Hinduisms, eds. Pralay Kanungo, Deepa Reddy, Maya Warrior, John Zavos and Raymond Williams. New Delhi: Sage. Pp. 160-168. 2012. <pdf>
- Natrajan, Balmurli. “Learning Caste: Banal and Brutal” in Caste in Life: Experiencing Inequalities, D.S.Babu and R.S.Khare (Eds.). Pearson Education. Pp. 33-43. 2010. <pdf>
- Natrajan, Balmurli. ‘Place and Pathology in Caste’, Economic and Political Weekly Vol.XLIV, No. 51, pp. 79-82. 2009. <pdf>
- Natrajan, Balmurli. “Indian Electoral Democracy: The Only Game in Town” Economic and Political Weekly Vol. XLIV No. 29, July 18, 2009, pp. 14-17. 2009.
- Natrajan, Balmurli and Paul Greenough. ‘Introduction’, in Against Stigma, pp. 1-44. 2009
- Natrajan, Balmurli. ‘Essentially Polluted: Untouchability, Caste and Diversity’, in Against Stigma, pp. 298 – 325. 2009.
- Natrajan, Balmurli. ‘Cultural Values’, in Encyclopedia of Social Problems, ed. Vincent Parrillo. Sage Publications. Pp. 193-196. 2008.
- Natrajan, Balmurli. ‘Misrepresenting Caste and Race’, Seminar April 2007, no.572:65-66. 2007.
- Natrajan, Balmurl ‘Caste, Class and Community in India: An Ethnographic Approach’, Ethnology 44(3): 227-241. 2005.
- Natrajan, Balmurli. ‘Beyond Homogenization versus Heterogenization: Difference and Culture in Globalization’, In Soma Hewa and Darwin Stapleton, eds., Globalization, Philanthropy and Civil Society: Toward a New Political Culture in the 21st Century.
Springer: New York. pp. 177-192. 2005.
- Natrajan, Balmurli. ‘Masking and Veiling Protests: Culture and Ideology in Representing Globalization’, Cultural Dynamics 15(2): 213-235. 2003.
- Natrajan, Balmurli. ‘Legitimating Globalization: Culture and Its Uses’, Journal of Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems vol.12, no.1: 127-138. 2002.
- Natrajan, Balmurli and Radhika Parameswaran. ‘Contesting the Politics of Ethnography: Towards an Alternative Knowledge Production’, Journal of Communication Inquiry 21(1): 27-53. 1997.
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.
- “The Culturalization of Caste: An Interview with Balmurli Natrajan” (2022). Countercurrents
- “‘Howdy People?’ Tackling the Question of Who India’s Citizen-Subjects Are.” (2020) The Wire
- Four part essay with Suraj Jacob and Ajay T.G.. “The Great Indian Toilet Puzzle” (A four-part series on toilets and open defecation). (2019). The Wire [Part 1Part 2 Part 3 Part 4]
- “Who’s Afraid of Anand Teltumbde?” (2019). The Wire
- “Care, Trust, and Respect: Domestic Workers and Their Employers” (2018) Co-authored with Rajesh Joseph and Roshni Lobo. Deccan Herald
- “How Is Vigilante Culture Produced and Durably Installed in Society?” (2017). Raiot
- “From Sir With Love: To His Students Living in these Dark Times” (2016). Sabrang
- “Of AAP and Khap: Eight Myths About Culture and Caste” (2014). Kafila
- “Searching for Progressive Hindu/ism: Battling Mussolini’s Hindus, Hindutva and Hubris” (2009). Tikkun Sept/Oct 58-61.
- “The Battle of Mumbai” (2009). Kafila: December 12.
- “Letter to a Progressive Hindu” South Asian Magazine for Action and Reflection No. 28, February 2008.
- with Hsain Ilahiane. ‘Oui Paul, Mais: The Uses of Social and Cultural Capital’, Anthropology News vol. 44, number 7, p.4. 2003.
- with Rahul De, and Biju Mathew. ‘Reading the NCERT Framework’, Ghadar 5(1). 2002.
- ‘Notes Towards A (Re)arrangement of Love’, South Asian Magazine of Action and Reflection no.8. 1997.
- with Jael Silliman. Review of Huyler, Stephen, Painted Prayers: Women’s Art in Village India, in South Asian Magazine for Action and Reflection no.5. 1995.