The Politics of Caste in West Bengal: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Politics of Caste in West Bengal

1st Edition

Edited by Uday Chandra, Geir Heierstad, Kenneth Bo Nielsen

Routledge India

272 pages | 4 B/W Illus.

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This volume offers for the first time a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the making and maintenance of a modern caste society in colonial and postcolonial West Bengal in India. Drawing on cutting-edge multidisciplinary scholarship, it explains why caste continues to be neglected in the politics of and scholarship on West Bengal, and how caste relations have permeated the politics of the region until today. The essays presented here dispel the myth that caste does not matter in Bengali society and politics, and make possible meaningful comparisons and contrasts with other regions in South Asia.

The work will interest scholars and researchers in sociology, social anthropology, politics, modern Indian history and cultural studies.


This important volume imaginatively unravels heterogeneous, subterranean, and formative histories . . . of caste. Saurabh Dube, Center for Asian and African Studies, El Colegio de México

This timely, provocative and scholarly book . . . [wi]th its rich ethnography and fine-tuned political sense . . . challenges the comfortable assumptions of Bengal as a society in which class relations have trumped traditional inequities and hierarchies . . . [T]he authors put caste centrally on the agenda of social theory in South Asia. — Dilip Menon, Centre for Indian Studies in Africa, University of Witwatersrand

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements. List of Illustrations and Figures. List of Tables. List of Abbreviations. Glossary. INTRODUCTION Uday Chandra, Geir Heierstad and Kenneth Bo Nielsen Part I: CASTE AND COLONIALISM 1. Kol, Coolie, Colonial Subject: A Hidden History of Caste and the Making of Modern Bengal Uday Chandra 2. Another History: Bhadralok Responses to Dalit Political Assertion in Colonial Bengal Sarbani Bandyopadhyay PartII: PARTITION AND THE MAKING OF A MODERN CASTE SOCIETY 3. Partition, Displacement and the Decline of the Scheduled Caste Movement in West Bengal Sekhar Bandyopadhyay and Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury 4. Partition and the Mysterious Disappearance of Caste in Bengal Partha Chatterjee 5. An Absent-Minded Casteism? Dwaipayan Sen Part III: CASTE AND POPULAR POLITICS 6.The Politics of Caste and Class in Singur’s Anti-Land Acquisition Struggle Kenneth Bo Nielsen 7.Building up the Harichand-Guruchand Movement: The Politics of the Matua MahasanghaPraskanva Sinharay 8.Transformative Politics: The Imaginary of the Mulnibasi in West BengalIndrajit Roy Part IV: CASTE, STRATIFICATION AND THE ECONOMY 9. From Client to Supporter: Economic Change and the Slow Change of Social Identity in Rural West BengalArild Engelsen Ruud 10.Craft, Identity, Hierarchy: The Kumbhakars of Bengal Moumita Sen 11.The Commodification of Caste and Politics in Kolkata’s KumartuliGeir Heierstad.About the Editors. Notes on Contributors

About the Editors

Uday Chandra is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany.

Geir Heierstad is Research Director at the Department of International Studies, Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research, Oslo, Norway.

Kenneth Bo Nielsen is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Sociology, University of Bergen, Norway.

About the Series

Exploring the Political in South Asia

Exploring the Political in South Asia is devoted to the publication of research on the political cultures of the region. The books in this Series will present qualitative and quantitative analyses grounded in field research, and will explore the cultures of democracies in their everyday local settings, specifically the workings of modern political institutions, practices of political mobilisation, manoeuvres of high politics, structures of popular beliefs, content of political ideologies and styles of political leadership, amongst others. Through fine-grained descriptions of particular settings in South Asia, the studies presented in this Series will inform, and have implications for, general discussions of democracy and politics elsewhere in the world.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Asia / India & South Asia
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Colonialism & Post-Colonialism
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies