Talk:Caste

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Attempt at close of old RfC[edit]

That is, the RfC listed on Archive 4 of this talk page, "RfC: Does the article minimize the centrality of India to the notion of caste?" That the discussion wasn't closed earlier is of little surprise: it is long, it is technical, and the older it gets the less appetizing it gets: such discussions are very much not like Parmigiano-Reggiano. In fact, the discussion is so long that you'll have to accept the general conclusions I think I was able to draw without my being able to point at each and every individual comment supporting it. What I, as a non-Hindi-Indian currently middle-class college professor, conclude, are the following points:

  1. Scholarly consensus appears to be that the caste system is still of the greatest importance to Hindu India; vice versa, discussions of the caste system in secondary and tertiary scholarly sources note the centrality of Hindu India to the very concept of "caste".
  2. Scholarly and especially less scholarly discussions on the concept of caste in other societies, esp. those outside SE Asia, mostly seem to use the term in the "broader" sense signaled in various places in the RfC--as a convenient shorthand for "social stratification" and such. I note also that the application of the term "caste" to some other cultures, popular until the 1970s and perhaps after, has now come under (academic) scrutiny and criticism.
  3. Considering those two points, I conclude that it is
  4. The 1 September 2012 version of the article does suffer from OR and some coatracking; the current version is much better in that respect, though far from perfect. Note, for example, the very loose use of the word "caste" in this newspaper article to warrant the inclusion of Cagot. As it turns out, there are sources "comparing" their segregation to that of the Indian caste system: such a comparison is perhaps valid, but does not itself warrant calling them a caste.

Allow me a few observations and suggestions.

  1. "Caste" should (and this is supported in the RfC) include extensive discussion of the situation in India.
  2. Examples from other cultures (some of which well established and verified in the current version of the article and associated main articles) must of course be thoroughly verified; an article from The Independent cannot suffice for what is, after all, an encyclopedic article.
  3. I believe it is imperative (and comments in the RfC and elsewhere in the talk page archives support this) to come to a clarification of terms. The current lead does some of that already, but a separate section is warranted. Etymology should be the least important part of such a section; more important is a history of the usage of the term--not to be able to list every example of its usage, but rather to sketch the attractiveness of the paradigm to scholars of various periods, an attractiveness that has by now lost some of its currency. Parts of the lead of the 1 September 2012 version point to that as well; what's important is to delineate the term and its currency. Fowler&Fowler cites Balkin in the RfC ("social stratification in the United States does not really match the technical definition of caste ... caste is at best an effective hyperbole") and it's precisely that kind of research and criticism that need to be used here.
  4. Sourcing should continue to be scrutinized--in Caste system in India, I read "Caste is neither unique to Hindu religion nor to India; caste systems have been observed in other parts of the world, for example, in the Muslim community of Yemen, Christian colonies of Spain, and Japan", with one reference possibly very outdated (1972) and another a newspaper article from the New York Times. This is an article in which Wikipedia's crowdsourcing "hey it's in the paper let's add it" needs to be held in check.

In all, I believe this was an interesting discussion in which the participants are perhaps closer to consensus than they thought. It is clear that there is no consensus that the article is redundant to Caste system in India etc.; it's clear also that there is consensus that the article should be much more focused than the 1 September 2012 version was, and that India must occupy a position of great(er) importance. In various places various quantified suggestions were made; I cannot comment on those numbers. I sensed some hesitance at perhaps "borrowing" material from Caste system in India--well, if that's where good content on the concept of caste, its history, and its usage can be found, that's where you go. Good luck. Drmies (talk) 03:15, 2 January 2013 (UTC)

Link to discussion: Talk:Caste/Archive 4#RfC: Does the article minimize the centrality of India to the notion of caste?. Cunard (talk) 00:56, 12 January 2013 (UTC)

Nobility/Aristocracy?[edit]

Aren't nobles something of a caste? I mean, they were for most of the time born into their social class, could hardly degrade form it, and had a fixed function in society (fighting and reigning). Even when the ancien régime had ended, nobles continued to fill many important positions in politics and diplomacy, and they are still widely considered inherently dignified. Nobility/Aristocracy, moreover, is not confined to Europe: a similar class either exists or has existed in the vast majority of cultures. The difference with India, of course, is that the rest of the population was not divided into legally defined classes, and that there was no class of untouchables (exluding certain ethnic groups like Jews or gypsies). But even so: why isn't aristocracy considered a caste? Steinbach (talk) 12:27, 28 January 2013 (UTC)

Recent revert[edit]

I've just reverted this. Yes, a caste system involves social stratification but the edit seems to be extending our definition from being a series of layers in a society to one where societies comprise "us and them". Perhaps the content would be of greater merit in Untouchability? Or perhaps I'm missing the point? - Sitush (talk) 07:34, 3 October 2013 (UTC)

Difference between caste and class systems[edit]

This might be a useful addition to the article.

The United Kingdom, for example, traditionally has a very strongly embedded class system; how might this be differentiated from a caste system? In terms of meeting the requirement of endogamy and stark social hierarchical divisions, it could be described as having a caste system. Perhaps this grows less so with time, but it's still a distinctive national and cultural trait compared with other Western nations. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 87.115.255.176 (talk) 13:16, 17 February 2014 (UTC)

Caste is not a "stratification" system[edit]

The reference [2] (Oxford dictionary of sociology) clearly states that the idea of caste as a stratification system is an "oversimplification" and even implies that it is a distortion. So, why is the term "stratification" used in the leading sentence of this article? Uday Reddy (talk) 23:25, 11 July 2014 (UTC)

Well-known Indian researchers disagree vehemently with the idea that caste is a hierarchical system (the "oversimplification" mentioned above). For instance, Dipankar Gupta writes, "To look at castes, therefore, in terms of their attributes drawn from the notion of a pure ritual hierarchy would certainly not resonate with facts on the ground." (Caste in question: Identity or hierarchy? ISBN: 0–7619–3324–7, p. ix) I am waiting to see if anybody wants to defend the "stratification" idea before I edit it to something more balanced. Uday Reddy (talk) 12:12, 14 July 2014 (UTC)
What would you propose as an alternative, given that the stratification stuff is sourced? I didn't add it and, frankly, I think this article has suffered from too much editing by sociologists and their ilk but nonetheless it is sourced. - Sitush (talk) 05:50, 21 July 2014 (UTC)
Just "social organization" would be fine instead of "social stratification". "Sociologists" have mostly taken their ideas from western colonial writers of the 19th century, whose insights into the facts was quite limited. (These ideas are also reproduced in school text books in the West. So, almost all westerners and many Asians too grow up thinking the same thing about caste.) Contemporary Asian researchers disagree with the ideas propounded in the colonial writing. Their view is essentially that the caste system is a form of multiculturalism and stratification is a byproduct. The Wikipedia article should recognize that this divergence of views. Distorting its own cited reference is inexcusable. Uday Reddy (talk) 08:03, 21 July 2014 (UTC)
Thanks. I cannot see the source and so have no idea what it says and what weight might be given to the various theories. I'm also very concerned that this article relies so much on tertiary sources, which are not usually considered to be A Good Thing. I don't think changing "stratification" to "organisation" is a big deal but it probably is important to remember that this article is not merely about caste in some parts of Asia: does the stratification/multiculturalism difference applies to caste everywhere or just in that region? I think I have a copy of Gupta's book somewhere but I'd be interested to see some other examples from these contemporary Asian researchers, especially if they are Marxist (which would add a whole heap of issues). - Sitush (talk) 16:18, 21 July 2014 (UTC)
Well, a "Gold Standard" source is Romila Thapar's "A History of India". It has a discussion of caste pretty much throughout the book. Are these researchers Marxist? I don't think so, but I don't know what exactly that term means. Uday Reddy (talk) 20:27, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
I've got one of the two volumes by Thapar. She is controversial in some quarters but perfectly ok as a source. But, to return to my main point, she is writing of India and this article covers much more than just India. Regarding Marxists, if we take on the views of, say, Gail Omvedt, then a whole can of worms opens up because of the Marxist theory that everything boils down to class - people like Omvedt try to turn "caste" into "class". I'm not saying that we should not use her either but the scope widens rapidly if/when we do. Are you aware of Caste system in India? - Sitush (talk) 21:07, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
Indeed, I have taken on your point about this article referring to caste in many regions of the world. I will need to check some of the other references before I do any changes. I wouldn't want to eliminate the stratification idea entirely, just that it should be presented as a particular angle to the idea of caste. The Caste system in India also suffers from very much the same problems. On the other hand, there is another page called History of the Indian caste system which seems better informed.