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'A Fist Is Stronger than Five Fingers': Caste and Dominance in Rural North India

Craig Jeffrey
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Vol. 26, No. 2 (2001), pp. 217-236
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3650669
Page Count: 20
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'A Fist Is Stronger than Five Fingers': Caste and Dominance in Rural North India
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Abstract

This paper explores the spatiality of caste and power in contemporary rural north India. I aim to introduce the social institution of caste to a non-specialist audience and illustrate how caste is changing. The paper draws upon Pierre Bourdieu's notions of social capital and habitus and the India-based research of Srinivas (1955) and Mendelsohn (1993). I argue that while caste as a religiously sanctioned system of resource transfer is in decline, caste organization and identity are important forms of social or symbolic capital for rural elites. Drawing on detailed empirical research in western Uttar Pradesh, I demonstrate the continuing importance of caste dominance in the reproduction of social inequality and relate caste to other axes of power.

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