Interpreting untouchability - The performance of caste in Andhra Pradesh, South India

Charsley, S. (2004) Interpreting untouchability - The performance of caste in Andhra Pradesh, South India. Asian Folklore Studies, 63(2), pp. 267-290.

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The performance of a living caste purana is outlined for the light it throws on its 'Untouchable' owners' placing in the world of their own caste identity as Madigas. This is shown as taking the form of a confrontation between the Madiga and the Brahman, the former seeking to undermine the claimed superiority of the latter. Going beyond this, it calls on cosmogonic traditions emphasizing the female Shakti and making secondary and junior the great male gods of contemporary Hinduism. Madigas' practical importance to others in relation to leather and to performing, and the relationships resulting, are emphasized. An embraceable caste identity at odds with sheerly negative conceptions of 'the Untouchable' is constructed. The problematic aspects of Madiga identity are not ignored; exclusion, Untouchability and poverty are accounted for, but contextualized within powerfully positive elements. It is suggested that this should not be seen immediately as an answer to outsiders' questions but, in a Geertzian spirit, as a chance to analyse a complex and changing story that people tell themselves about themselves

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Identity, India, Untouchable, Purana, Caste Myth, Performance
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Charsley, Dr Simon
Authors: Charsley, S.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Journal Name:Asian Folklore Studies

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