A study in caste ranking



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The study of caste ranking has until recently received little attention from the scholars interested in India. Only two objective techniques for the determination of caste rank have been developed. Pauline Mahar Kolenda (Mahar, 1959) developed a multiple scaling technique which enabled her to rank the castes of Khalapur in U.P. by determining the ritual distance between castes. McKim Marriott (1957) developed a card arranging technique which enabled him to rank the castes of Kishan Garhi, U.P. Stanley A. Freed (I963) further developed the card arranging technique to give it a statistical base. The main criticism of this technique is that the criteria for deciding caste rank is not known. In an attempt to determine the criteria by which castes are ranked in the card arranging technique, I conducted additional interviewing immediately following the regular interview sessions used by Marriott and Freed. The additional interviewing revealed that approximately half of the reasons given for caste rank concerned ritual distance and pollution. The hierarchies as determined by the two different techniques were compared and found to have a positive correlation coefficient of .905. The high correlation between the two hierarchies and the large number of responses suggesting ritual criteria leads me to the conclusion that for Maa Uuru, the hierarchy as determined by the card arranging technique is basically a ritual one. It is possible that hierarchies determined by the two methods would be less highly correlated if non-ritual criteria becomes more Important in deciding caste rank. In this case, the number of responses concerning ritual reasons for caste rank would be less. The modification of the card arranging technique made in this study is useful in that (1) it does let the fieldworker know the criteria used in deciding caste rank, and (2) it also gives the fieldworker facts he might otherwise overlook; e.g. local factors, such as caste customs differing from the general customs of the area. The findings in this thesis suggest that both the multiple scaling technique and the card arranging technique can be effective tools for the study of caste ranking in South India. This study also demonstrates that the card arranging technique can be used to determine objectively one composite hierarchy based upon different criteria reflecting all or most of the factors considered by the villagers in deciding caste rank. A lengthy ethnography is Included in this thesis to assist the reader in gaining a better understanding of the people of Maa Uuru and their most interesting culture.



Castes, India