This volume offers a new understanding of caste in contemporary India. It argues that the traditional view of caste - as a single hierarchy, with Brahmans at the top and the untouchable castes at the bottom - is no longer valid.
Based on fieldwork, the articles in this volume prove that ritual dominance does not determine the nature of caste interactions in any way. From politics to gender to economic interaction, the single, pure hierarchy is constantly being questioned and weakened. Castes that once had the status of shudras are now claiming, on occasions, a position superior to Brahmans and Kshatriyas; agrarian castes - such as Jats, Ahirs and Gujars - are at the political forefront, taking caste identities outside the village; the once passive untouchable castes are now aggressive and militant, and aware of their rights in a democratic society.
This exciting collection of original articles demonstrates how caste identity today challenges the outdated notion of a single, all-encompassing hierarchy, within which each caste co-exists peacefully.