ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Contingent Caste Endogamy and Patriarchy

Lessons for Our Understanding of Caste

While endogamy is critical to caste and the reproduction of caste, the shifting circle of endogamy is instructive of how castes and their practices are dynamic. Insufficient attention has been paid to shifts in the enforcement of endogamy and the ways in which women's sexuality is controlled. These have varied not only by caste, but also over time and context. This paper argues that shifts in the assertion of endogamy vary according to a caste's consciousness and its aspirations at a particular historical moment. Further, in looking at varied responses to non-endogamous relationships and marriages, especially the tolerance to them in some instances, it explores the contingencies in the response. This shows that the idea of the "purity of the caste" masks forms of power often played out in the local - in the domestic, the village, or caste.

Versions of this paper were presented at the City University of New York Graduate Centre and at the South Asia conference in Madison in October 2012. I would like to thank the audiences in each place for questions and comments. I would like to thank Uma Chakravarti for comments on the paper and a special thank you to Lucinda Ramberg and Srimati Basu for detailed comments and suggestions. Of course, all shortcomings remain mine.

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