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Centre for South Asian Studies: News


Hugo Gorringe writes in The Hindu newspaper:

The process of caste enumeration, which got under way recently, has shown that social categories are more malleable than they appear

G. S. Ghurye on the Colonial Census

After a gap of over eight decades, the painstaking attempt to enumerate and measure castes has once again got under way. The pros and cons of compiling data on caste categories have been exhaustively discussed in the pages of this newspaper and elsewhere and I will not tire readers with a reprise. Most of those arguments revolved around the means by which the exercise could be accomplished and the possible end results of a caste-based head-count. Whilst the current compilation of data takes the form of a Socio Economic and Caste Survey rather than a full-blown census, now that it has begun our attention is drawn to the impact that the collection process itself may have. Over the past few weeks in Tamil Nadu the various responses, agitations, posters, demands and debates about how each caste should or should not respond have been absolutely compelling. Where some have urged members to register themselves with an over-arching caste name in the interests of numerical advantage, others have clung steadfastly and proudly to their sub-caste identities privileging status and identity over instrumental calculations. Central to these machinations is the fact that the survey is perceived to be more than just the collection of numbers. As with the British census it is seen as a means of classifying and categorising the social universe into groups entitled to or not entitled to certain benefits  .........................


Group of workers about to start the next shift