ASST 341
Caste, Race, Hierarchy Spring 2017 Division II; Exploring Diversity Initiative; Cross-listed as ASST341 / AFR341 / ANTH341 / GBST341
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Caste in India looms large in global social thought as a kind of benchmark against which hierarchical social systems across the world are measured. This prominence has much to do with British colonial ideologies of rule, but it also has a deeper and different history: the Buddha compared caste to Greek slavery, early modern Jesuits related it to the system of European estates, and since the nineteenth century, anti-caste radicals from Dalit, or “untouchable,” backgrounds have drawn a sustained comparison between the forms of oppression they face and those with which African Americans contend in the United States. Reciprocally, thinkers from W.E.B. DuBois to Toni Morrison have deployed the category of caste in their writings on race. What can the study of caste in postcolonial South Asia contribute to global debates over the persistence of “traditional” forms of social hierarchy? What are the stakes of bringing caste and race into the same conversation, and what are the implications of refusing to do so? In this seminar we will acquire a thorough grounding in the anthropological literature on caste and then investigate the politics of the caste-race comparison over the last hundred years. Assignments include weekly postings of 1-page critical response papers and either a research paper or an interview-based, ethnographic final project examining “caste” in one’s own community. In its engagement with hierarchy in our various communities, and in its critical theorization of the commensurability (or not) of distinctive systems of inequality, the course fulfills the EDI requirement.
The Class: Type: seminar
Limit: 20
Expected: 15
Class#: 3221
Requirements/Evaluation: weekly postings of 1-page critical response papers and research paper or ethnographic final project
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis; not available for the fifth course option
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preference: seniors, juniors, majors in ANSO, AFR, or ASST
Distributions: Division II; Exploring Diversity Initiative;

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