Aspects of Caste in South India, Ceylon, and North-West Pakistan

By E. R. Leach | Go to book overview

the structural role of every sector in a total organic system. Whereas a ruling aristocracy is invariably a numerical minority, a dominant caste may be, and usually is, a majority element in the total population.

It follows that the kind of dominance asserted by individual members of an aristocracy upon individual members of the lower classes is entirely different in quality from intercaste hierarchy, even though both types of relationship are concerned with economic service and even though, in both cases, one of the parties involved is necessarily of 'higher social status' than the other.

I have commented at length upon the special qualities of intercaste relationship because the various contributors, in their treatment of this topic, seem to me particularly illuminating. They have led me to the conclusion that there is something fundamentally wrong about Kroeber's well-known definition: 'A Caste may be defined as an endogamous and hereditary subdivision of an ethnic unit occupying a position of superior or inferior rank or social esteem in comparison with other subdivisions' ( Kroeber 1931). It is wrong because it puts the emphasis in the wrong place -- upon endogamy and rank, and because it slurs the really crucial fact that caste is a system of interrelationship and that every caste in a caste system has its special privileges.

But the principal concern of these authors is not with definition. Each essay has its own individual merits which are both sociologically and ethnographically important. Here I must leave the reader to judge for himself.


NOTES
1
Ferguson's Ceylon Directory 1954 lists around 6000 'men's addresses'. These include almost everyone who has any kind of political or economic influence in the country. About 4000 of the names are those of Sinhalese but of these rather less than half are of Sinhalese style. Virtually all such true Sinhalese names indicate respectable caste status. The other Sinhalese in the Directory mostly have names of Portuguese form such as Perera (400), de Silva (350), Fernando (300), which give no indication of caste status. Such names have originated in the past as a function of the kind of social mobility described by Dr Yalman.
2
'Professions' were clergy of the Church of England, naval and military officers, barristers-at-law. In the English legal system a barrister has no direct financial dealings with his client. The practice of endogamy was less strict than the theory; wealthy brewers and bankers especially were deemed to be respectable.

-10-

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Aspects of Caste in South India, Ceylon, and North-West Pakistan
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Contributors to This Issue vi
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction: What Should We Mean by Caste? 1
  • Notes 10
  • Caste in a Tanjore Village 11
  • Notes 60
  • Caste in Jaffna 61
  • Notes 77
  • The Flexibility Of Caste Principles in A Kandyan Community 78
  • Notes 111
  • The System Of Social Stratification in Swat, North Pakistan 113
  • Notes 146
  • Bibliography 147
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