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Mosse, David (2020) 'Outside Caste? The Enclosure of Caste and Claims to Castelessness in India and the United Kingdom.' Comparative Studies in Society and History, 62 (1). pp. 4-34.

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Caste has always generated political and scholarly controversy but the forms that this takes today newly combine anti-caste activism with counter-claims about the irrelevance or non-existence of caste, or claims to castelessness. Such claims to castelessness are in turn viewed as a new disguise for caste power and privilege, as well as being an aspiration for people subject to caste-based discrimination. This article looks at elite claims to ‘enclose’ caste within religion (specifically Hinduism) and the (Indian) nation so as to restrict the field of social policy with regard to caste, to exempt caste (as a basis of discrimination) from the law, and limit the social politics of caste. It does so taking the comparative cases of caste and caste-based discrimination among non-Hindus, and outside India — the exclusion of Christian and Muslim Dalits (members of castes subordinated as ‘untouchable’) from provisions and protections as Scheduled Castes in India, and responses to the introduction of caste into anti-discrimination law in the UK. While Hindu organisations in the UK reject ‘caste’ as a colonial and racist term, deploying postcolonial scholarship to deny caste discrimination, Dalit organisations (representing its potential victims) turn to scholarly discourse on caste, race or human rights. These are epistemological disputes about categories of description and how ‘the social’ is made available for public debate, and especially for law. Such disputes engage with anthropology whose analytical terms animate and change the social world that is their subject.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Caste, religion, Hinduism, India, UK equality law, Dalit activism, anthropology
SOAS Departments & Centres: Regional Centres and Institutes > SOAS South Asia Institute
Departments and Subunits > Department of Anthropology & Sociology
ISSN: 14752999
Copyright Statement: COPYRIGHT: © Society for the Comparative Study of Society and History 2020 This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2019 07:24
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council

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