Caste, Culture and Hegemony: Social Dominance in Colonial Bengal

SAGE Publishing India
Free sample

It is widely believed that, because of its exceptional social development, the caste system in colonial Bengal differed considerably from the rest of India. Through a study of the complex interplay between caste, culture and power, this book convincingly demonstrates that Bengali Hindu society preserved the essentials of caste discrimination in colonial times, even while giving the outward appearance of having changed.

Using empirical data combined with an impressive array of secondary sources, Dr Bandyopadhyay delineates the manner in which Hindu caste society maintained its cultural hegemony and structural cohesion. Starting with an examination of the relationship between caste and power, the book examines early cultural encounters between `high` Brahmanical tradition and the more egalitarian `popular` religious cults of the lower castes. It moves on to take a close look at the relationship between caste and gender showing the reasons why the reform movement for widow remarriage failed. It ends with an examination of the Hindu `partition` campaign, which appropriated dalit autonomous politics and made Hinduism the foundation of an emergent Indian national identity.

Sekhar Bandyopadhyay breaks with many of the assumptions of two important schools of thought—the Dumontian and the subaltern—and takes instead a more nuanced approach to show how high caste hegemony has been able to perpetuate itself. He thus takes up issues which go to the heart of contemporary problems in India`s social and political fabric.

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About the author

Sekhar Bandyopadhyay is Senior Lecturer and Head of the History Programme, School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. His research interests include the social and political history of modern India, with special reference to Bengal. He has previously published a number of books including Caste, Protest and Identity in Colonial India: The Namasudras of Bengal, 1872–1937; Caste, Politics and the Raj: Bengal 1872–1937; and Bengal: Rethinking History, Essays in Historiography (co-edited). He is also the author of numerous articles on caste, culture and nationalist politics in colonial India that have appeared in many journals and edited volumes.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SAGE Publishing India
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Published on
Jul 1, 2004
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9789352800728
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Social History
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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This book explores the meanings and complexities of India’s experience of transition from colonial to the post-colonial period. It focuses on the first five years – from independence on 15th August 1947 to the first general election in January 1952 – in the politics of West Bengal, the new Indian province that was created as a result of the Partition.

The author, a specialist on the history of modern India, discusses what freedom actually meant to various individuals, communities and political parties, how they responded to it, how they extended its meaning and how in their anxiety to confront the realities of free India, they began to invent new enemies of their newly acquired freedom. By emphasising the representations of popular mentality rather than the institutional changes brought in by the process of decolonization, he draws attention to other concerns and anxieties that were related to the problems of coming to terms with the newly achieved freedom and the responsibility of devising independent rules of governance that would suit the historic needs of a pluralist nation.

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