In a sensitive and compelling account of the lives of those at the very bottom of Indian society, Oliver Mendelsohn and Marika Vicziany explore the construction of the Untouchables as a social and political category, the historical background which led to such a definition, and their position in India today. The authors argue that, despite efforts to ameliorate their condition on the part of the state, a considerable edifice of discrimination persists on the basis of a tradition of ritual subordination. Even now, therefore, it still makes sense to categorise these people as 'Untouchables'. The book promises to make a major contribution to the social and economic debates on poverty, while its wide-ranging perspectives will ensure an interdisciplinary readership from historians of South Asia, to students of politics, economics, religion and sociology.
• The only comprehensive account of the phenomenon of Untouchability • Accessible and interdisciplinary in approach • Authors well-known in the field
Glossary; 1. Who are the Untouchables?; 2. The question of the 'Harijan atrocity'; 3. Religion, politics and the Untouchables from the nineteenth century to 1956; 4. Public policy I: adverse discrimination and compensatory discrimination; 5. Public policy II: the anti-poverty programs; 6. The new Untouchable proletariat: a case study of the Faridabad stone quarries; 7. Untouchable politics and Untouchable politicians since 1956; 8. The question of reservation: lives and careers of some scheduled castes MPs and MLAs; 9. Subordination, poverty and the state in modern India; Bibliography; Index.
'The authors really come into their own when they take a long, hard look at public policy, and when they take up case studies which reveal indepth fieldwork. [They] offer a penetrating insight into reservation policies. The effort that has gone into the case studies is evident … It is of great value because it provides an understanding of the phenomenon of 'new poverty'. More importantly, it throws light on the fight over bonded labour and working conditions, expressed in political, legal and industrial forms.' The Telegraph (India)
'Clearly written and lucidly argued, this book is an important study of a very sensitive subject.' Journal of Asian Studies