On history and castes

Peter J. Claus pclaus at haywire.csuhayward.edu
Sun Jun 8 14:59:24 UTC 1997

Date: June 8, 1997 
Indology List
indology at Liverpool.ac.uk
Dear Frank,
You wrote:

"On an earlier post concerning various bits of
"folklore" about the origins of various brahman castes,
I can only report that in sorting through some of these
bits of "folklore" I never found a shred of verifiable
historical evidence."
What would be importance for "history" in "historical
evidence" in any case?  For most castes (including
Brahmans) history of their origins is not something for
which "evidence" (meaning independently documented?) is
likely to be obtained in any case.  That is, if you
think of a caste as some sort of physical (biological)
group over time.  
But if one thinks of caste as an identity phenomenon,
then couldn't one trace the history of the use of
specific social identity markers? Eg. how the meaning
of such markers change, when they become applied to
whom and by whom with what authority, under what social
conditions, etc.?  Although admittedly it's difficult
to know what group these were originally applied to in
relation to the group which now claims it, one should
be able to see in historically dateable literature
(including inscriptions, etc.) changes in the use of
these markers.  This would be 'history', wouldn't it? 
Peter J. Claus                        
fax: (510) 704-9636
pclaus at csuhayward.edu

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