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|Number of Pages||237 Pages|
How and why did the caste system emerge in South Asia? Why do contemporary anthropologists and Indologists experience so much difficulty with this problem?
Morton Klass addresses both of these questions in this book, and the result is an intellectual adventure story, an essay in ethnohistorical deduction and reconstruction.
Klass begins by examining the assumptions underlying the older explanations of the origin of caste, tracing their roots in dubious history, ethnocentrism, and outmoded theory. Then, using contemporary anthropological writings on ecology, economy, social structure, and cultural evolution, he develops a scenario in which caste emerges as a transformation of an earlier clan structure that until now has been considered an evolutionary ‘dead end’.
His radically new explanation is the result of a pioneering effort in theoretical synthesis. By employing the tools of what he calls `eclectic anthropology` – an approach frequently attacked by proponents of more rigid and exclusionary strategies – he brings together elements from the seemingly unconnectable approaches of such major theorists as Claude Levi-Strauss, Marvin Harris, and Karl Polanyi. Caste offers a challenge to scholars to free themselves of their theoretical fetters, to open themselves to ideas from all corners of their discipline.