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Kerala Christians and the Caste System

C. J. Fuller
Man
New Series, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Mar., 1976), pp. 53-70
DOI: 10.2307/2800388
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2800388
Page Count: 18
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Kerala Christians and the Caste System
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Abstract

The Christians of Kerala are divided into Syrian, Latin and New Christian groupings, which may be regarded as castes-ranked with respect to each other and surrounding Hindu castes. Christian sects, however, should not be regarded as castes. Between the Christian castes, though, unlike the Hindu castes, individual social mobility can occur under certain conditions. Christian and Hindu behaviour concerning the rules of caste and pollution are almost identical, although Christians could sometimes act as pollution neutralisers. But the most important qualification is that Christians have no concept of bodily pollution. Thus Christians and Hindus only share an orthopraxy in inter-caste relations; it does not operate within the Christian community. Against Dumont, 'theology' is distinguished from 'ideology' and, it is argued, both communities share a very similar ideology differing fundamentally from Hindu theology. Thus, despite differences which are briefly discussed, Christians and Hindus share a common orthopraxy and ideology and form one total society.

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