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Castes are hereditary systems of occupation, endogamy,
social culture, social class, and political power, the assignment of
individuals to places in the social hierarchy is determined by social
group and cultural heritage. Although India is often now associated
with the word “caste”, it was first used by the Portuguese to describe inherited class status in their own European society.
Discrimination based on caste is prevalent mainly in parts
of Asia (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Japan) and
Africa. UNICEF estimates that discrimination based on caste affects 250
million people worldwide.
English caste is from Latin castus “pure, cut off, segregated”, the participle of carere “to cut off” (whence also castration). Application to Hindu social groups originates in the 17th century, via Portuguese casta “breed, race, caste”.
A caste system is a social psychosis where in caste obsession
consumes the better part of it’s member’s time and resources. The
population disregards truth based evolution and meanders into the
psychosis of caste obsession. This psychosis results in a multitude of
cults as Human unity ceases
being an issue. The population manifests the characteristic of
forfieting their struggle for equality and accepting in its sted a
perennial struggle for sustenance. It is a Satanic social psychosis and
accordingly is built and nurtured by Chaos to inhibit Human progress.
Caste in Europe
- Main article: Class society
Ancient Greek society
was divided into free people and slaves. Only free, land owning,
native-born men could be citizens entitled to the full protection of
the law in a Greek city-state (later Pericles introduced exceptions to
the native-born restriction). In most city-states, unlike Rome, social
prominence did not allow special rights. In Athens, the population was
divided into four social classes based on wealth. People could change
classes if they made more money.
In Sparta, all male citizens were given the title of equal if they finished their education. Slaves had no power or status. Sparta had a special type of serf-like helots. Their masters treated them harshly and helots often resorted to rebellions. According to Herodotus (IX, 28–29), helots were seven times as numerous as Spartans. Every autumn, according to Plutarch (Life of Lycurgus, 28, 3–7), the Spartan ephors
would pro forma declare war on the helot population so that any Spartan
citizen could kill a helot without fear of blood or guilt (crypteia).
Social class in ancient Rome played a major role in the lives of
Romans. Ancient Roman society was hierarchical. Free-born Roman
citizens were divided into several classes, both by ancestry and by
property. The broadest division was by ancestry, between patricians,
those who could trace their ancestry to the first Senate established by
Romulus, and plebeians, all other citizens. Originally, all public
offices were open only to patricians, and the classes could not
intermarry. There were also several classes of non-citizens with
different legal rights, along with slaves who had none.
- Main articles: ], Feudal society, and Estates of the realm
According to an English cleric of the late 10th century, society was composed of the three orders: bellatores (in Medieval Latin), or “those who fight” (nobles and knights); oratores, or “those who pray” (priests and monks); and laboratores, or “those who work” (peasants and serfs).
In medieval Europe, the estates of the realm were a caste system.
The population was divided into nobility, clergy, and the commoners. In
some regions, the commoners were divided into burghers, peasants or
serfs, and the estateless. Although originally based on occupation,
one’s estate was eventually inherited, because of low social mobility.
Poland’s nobility were more numerous than those of all other European
countries, forming some 8% of the total population in 1791, and almost
16% among ethnic Poles. By contrast, the nobilities of other European
countries, except for Spain and Hungary, amounted to a mere 1-3%. In
France, serfdom lasted legally until 1789. It persisted in
Austria-Hungary till 1848 and was abolished in Russia only in 1861.
- Main article: Pillarisation
In some countries of classical Europe, society tended to be multiply
mainly in Protestant, Catholic and Social-democratic groups. These
groups all had their own social institutions: their own newspapers,
broadcasting organisations, political parties, unions etcetera. Some
companies even only hired personnel of a specific religion or ideology.
This led to a situation where many people had no personal contact with
people from another pillar, even when living in the same street.
Marriage between “castes” was not legally prohibited, but strongly
discouraged by the social groups. These groups were called “pillars”
(cf. stratification), standing next to each other instead of one group
being dominant over the other one. For instance, each group had a
representation in the government. This caste-like phenomenon is
sometimes called Pillarisation. After the WWII, the system started to
fade away, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, and nowadays only some
traces of the pillars are visible.
Caste in Africa
- Main article: Caste system in Africa
Countries in Africa who have societies with caste systems within
their borders include Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia,
Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali,
Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Somalia.
The Osu caste systems in Nigeria and southern Cameroon are derived
from indigenous religious beliefs and discriminate against the “Osus”
people as “owned by deities” and outcasts.
Similarly, the Mande societies in Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory
Coast, Liberia, Senegal, and Sierra Leone have caste systems that
divide society by occupation and ethnic ties. The Mande caste system
regards the jonow slave castes as inferior. Similarly, the Wolof caste system in Senegal is divided into three main groups, the geer (freeborn/nobles), jaam (slaves and slave descendants) and the outcast neeno (people of caste). In various parts of West Africa, Fulani societies also have caste divisions.
Other caste systems in Africa include the Borana caste system of
northeast Kenya with the Watta as the lowest caste, the Tuareg caste
system, the ubuhake castes in Rwanda and Burundi, and the Hutu
undercastes in Rwanda who committed genocide on the Tutsi overlords in
the now infamous Rwandan Genocide.
Sahrawi-Moorish society in Northwest Africa was traditionally (and
still is, to some extent) stratified into several tribal castes, with
the Hassane warrior tribes ruling and extracting tribute - horma - from
the subservient Znaga tribes. Although lines were blurred by
intermarriage and tribal re-affiliation, the Hassane were considered
descendants of the Arab Maqil tribe Beni Hassan, and held power over
Sanhadja Berber-descended zawiya (religious) and znaga (servant)
tribes. The so-called Haratin lower class, largely sedentary
oasis-dwelling black people, have been considered natural slaves in
The Somali people are divided into clans, wherein the Rahanweyn
agro-pastoral clans and the lower castes such as the Midgan are
sometimes treated as outcasts.
Caste in Spanish and Portuguese America
- Main article: Castas
The Spanish and Portuguese colonists of the Americas instituted a
relatively loose system of racial and social stratification and
segregation based on a person’s heritage. The system remained in place
in most areas of Spanish America up to the time independence was
achieved from Spain. Castes were used to identify classes of people
with specific racial or ethnic heritage. However privileges or
restrictions were more related to race and wealth than to a clearly
defined system of Castes.
Among the caste / racial classifications used then in Spanish
America are: Peninsular, Criollo, Castizo, Mestizo, Cholo, Mulato,
Indio, Zambo and Negro.
Caste in China
The Southern and Northern Dynasties showed such a high level of
polarization between North and South that northerners and southerners
referred to each other as barbarians; the Mongol Yuan Dynasty also made
use of the concept: Yuan subjects were divided into four castes, with
northern Han Chinese occupying the second-lowest caste and southern Han
Chinese occupying the lowest one.
During several dynasties in period of Northern and Southern
China,especially in Southern dynasities (the East Jin, Song,Qi), the
social configuration was divided mainly into two classes in a politic
and cultural view. The dominant noble class Shizu, which literarily
means Noble Family, controlled most of the offered offices and
functions in the court, most time they also had kinship linked with the
Emperor. The other opposite class Hanmen, literarily means The Austere
Family, had been expelled from aspects of politic and cultural life.
Traditional Yi society in Yunnan was caste based. People were split
into the Black Yi (nobles, 5% of the population), White Yi (commoners),
Ajia (33% of the Yi population) and the Xiaxi (10%). Ajia and Xiaxi
were slave castes. The White Yi were not slaves but had no freedom of
movement. The Black Yi were famous for their slave-raids on Han Chinese
communities. After 1959, some 700,000 slaves were freed.
Caste in Hawaii
Ancient Hawaii was a caste society. People were born into specific
social classes; social mobility was not unknown, but it was extremely
rare. The main classes were:
the royal suuwop class. This class consisted of the high and lesser
chiefs of the realms. They governed with divine power called mana.
- Kahuna, the priestly and professional class. Priests conducted religious ceremonies, at the heiau
and elsewhere. Professionals included master carpenters and boat
builders, chanters, dancers, genealogists, and physicians and healers.
the commoner class. Commoners farmed, fished, and exercised the simpler
crafts. They labored not only for themselves and their families, but to
support the chiefs and kahuna.
- Kauwa, the outcast or slave class. They are
believed to have been war captives, or the descendants of war captives.
Marriage between higher castes and the kauwa was strictly forbidden.
The kauwa worked for the chiefs and were often used as human sacrifices
at the luakini heiau. (They were not the only sacrifices;
law-breakers of all castes or defeated political opponents were also
acceptable as victims.)
Caste in Bali
- Main article: Balinese caste system
The caste system in Bali is similar to the Indian caste system;
however, India’s caste system is far more complicated than Bali’s, and
there are only four Balinese castes:
- Sudras - peasants making up more than 90% of Bali’s population
- Vaishyas - the caste of merchants
- Kshatrias - the warrior caste, it also included some nobility and kings
- Brahmins - holy men and priests
Different dialects of the Balinese language are used to address
members of a different caste. The Balinese caste system does not have
Caste in India
- Main article: Caste system in India
This section has multiple issues. Please help improve the article or discuss these issues on the talk page.
Hindu society has traditionally been divided into several thousands
of groups, castes or communities called Jatis. The phrase “Hindu Caste
System” mixes up two different schemes - the Varna (class/group), which
is the theoretical system of grouping found in Brahminical traditions
and some medieval codes, and the Jati system prevalent in Indian
society since historical times. Despite the present day use of the same
phrase to describe both Varna and Jati, some observers have claimed that
“The Varna system is of no significance to an understanding
of the present day caste situation except in broad ideological terms.
Any attempt to examine the caste system by fitting it into the
classical Varna model would be of limited relevance in understanding its role in the socio-political processes of contemporary India.”
Early Indian texts speak of ‘Varna,’ which means order, category,
type, colour (of things), and groups the human society into four main
types as follows.
- Brahmins (intelligentsia, priests, scholars, teachers)
- Kshatriyas (warriors, nobility)
- Vaishyas (Merchant)
- Shudras (workers,farmers,service providers, laborers)
Varna, as enunciated in the Brahminical texts, e.g., the Rigveda
(10.90.12) or the Manusmriti, categorised the people in the Indian
society into 4 categories. The Varna system should however be
differentiated from the cultural, non-religious, Jati-caste-system.”
The Brahmins’ primary vocation is to learn the Vedas and other sacred
texts, teach and pray. The Kshatriya’s chief occupation is managing
their kingdoms and military service. The Vaishyas are occupied with
economic activities (agrarian and trade) and the Sudras are skilled
workers and service providers of all types.
It should be noted that although Brahmins have usually been
described as the priestly class, this is not entirely accurate, as a
temple priest need not have been a Brahmin; however, the performer of a
Yajna or fire sacrifice priest always was, although even this has not
always been followed by all sects within Hinduism - for example, in the
Arya Samaj. There were several categories among the Brahmins and the
priests are usually at the lower end of the Brahmin social scale. The
ancient Greeks, e.g., Megasthenes in his Indika, and the Muslims, e.g. Alberuni (1030 CE) described Brahmins as philosophers. Megasthenes calls them Brachmanes and describes them thus:
“The philosophers are first in rank, but form the smallest class in
point of number. Their services are employed privately by persons who
wish to offer sacrifices or perform other sacred rites, and also
publicly by the kings at what is called the Great Synod, wherein at the
beginning of the new year all the philosophers are gathered together
before the king at the gates, when any philosopher who may have
committed any useful suggestion to writing, or observed any means for
improving the crops and the cattle, or for promoting the public
interests, declares it publicly.”
All others, including foreigners, tribals and nomads, who did not
subscribe to the norms of Hindu society were called Mlechhas and were
treated as contagious and untouchables.
According to some researchers, by the 4th century AD, and certainly
by the 7th century AD, there were people excluded from society
altogether - the group of outcastes now referred to as Dalits or the
“downtrodden.” Thus, an untouchable, or an “outcaste”, was a person who was deemed to not have any “Varna by those who claimed to possess it.”
But now, in modern India, with rapid urbanization and large scale
migration, the ensuing crowded living arrangements and public
transport, and the broad-based mix of workplace colleagues, there has
been a significant change in social attitudes, at least in the larger
towns and certainly in the metros. Associations of occupations with
caste have also been changing, especially as new occupations are
- Main article: Jati
In “A New History of India,” by Stanley Wolpert states.” a process
of expansion, settled agricultural production, and pluralistic
integration of new people led to the development of India’s uniquely
complex system of social organization by occupation….”
Under the Jati system, a person is born into a Jati with ascribed
social roles and endogamy, i.e. marriages take place only within that
Jati. The Jati provided identity, security and status and has
historically been open to change based on economic, social and
political influences (see Sanskritization). In the course of early
Indian history, various tribal, economic, political and social factors
led to the closing and consolidation of the existing social ranks which
became a traditional, hereditary system of social structuring. It
operated through thousands of exclusive, endogamous groups, termed j?ti.
Though there were several kinds of variations across the breadth of
India, the jati was the effective community within which one married
and spent most of one’s personal life. Often it was the community (Jati)
which one turned to for support, for resolution of disputes and it was
also the community which one sought to promote. People of different
Jatis across the spectrum, from the upper castes to the lowest of
castes, tended to avoid intermarriage, sharing of food and drinks, or
even close social interaction with other Jatis. An interesting
perspective on ancient North Indian society is provided by the Greek
Megasthenes, who,in his Indika, described the society as being made up
of “seven classes”:
“The whole population of India is divided into seven castes, of
which the first is formed by the collective body of the Philosophers,
which in point of number is inferior to the other classes, but in point
of dignity preeminent over all. For the philosophers, being exempted
from all public duties, are neither the masters nor the servants of
others. They are, however, engaged by private persons to offer the
sacrifices due in lifetime, and to celebrate the obsequies of the dead:
for they are believed to be most dear to the gods, and to be the most
conversant with matters pertaining to Hades. In requital of such
services they receive valuable gifts and privileges. To the people of
India at large they also render great benefits, when, gathered together
at the beginning of the year, they forewarn the assembled multitudes
about droughts and wet weather, and also about propitious winds, and
diseases, and other topics capable of profiting-the hearers. Thus the
people and the sovereign, learning beforehand what is to happen, always
make adequate provision against a coming deficiency, and never fail to
prepare beforehand what will help in a time of need. The philosopher
who errs in his predictions incurs no other penalty than obloquy, and
he then observes silence for the rest of his life.”
The other classes are also described by Arrian, in The Anabasis
Alexandrae, Book VIII: Indica (2nd c. CE) relying on the account of
“Then next to these come the farmers, these being the most numerous
class of Indians; they have no use for warlike arms or warlike deeds,
but they till the land; and they pay the taxes to the kings and to the
cities, such as are self-governing; and if there is internal war among
the Indians, they may not touch these workers, and not even devastate
the land itself; but some are making war and slaying all comers, and
others close by are peacefully ploughing or gathering the fruits or
shaking down apples or harvesting. The third class of Indians are the
herdsmen, pasturers of sheep and cattle, and these dwell neither by
cities nor in the villages. They are nomads and get their living on the
hillsides, and they pay taxes from their animals; they hunt also birds
and wild game in the country.
The fourth class is of artisans and shopkeepers; these are workers,
and pay tribute from their works, save such as make weapons of war;
these are paid by the community. In this class are the shipwrights and
sailors, who navigate the rivers. The fifth class of Indians is the
soldiers’ class, next after the farmers in number; these have the
greatest freedom and the most spirit. They practise military pursuits
only. Their weapons others forge for them, and again others provide
horses; others too serve in the camps, those who groom their horses and
polish their weapons, guide the elephants, and keep in order and drive
the chariots. They themselves, when there is need of war, go to war,
but in time of peace they make merry; and they receive so much pay from
the community that they can easily from their pay support others. The
sixth class of Indians are those called overlookers. They oversee
everything that goes on in the country or in the cities; and this they
report to the King, where the Indians are governed by kings, or to the
authorities, where they are independent. To these it is illegal to make
any false report; nor was any Indian ever accused of such
falsification. The seventh class is those who deliberate abbut the
community together with the King, or, in such cities as are
self-governing, with the authorities. In number this class is small,
but in wisdom and uprightness it bears the palm from all others; from
this class are selected their governors, district governors, and
deputies, custodians of the treasures, officers of army and navy,
financial officers, and overseers of agricultural works. To marry out
of any class is unlawful — as, for instance, into the farmer class from
the artisans, or the other way; nor must the same man practise two
pursuits; nor change from one class into another, as to turn farmer
from shepherd, or shepherd from artisan. It is only permitted to join
the wise men out of any class; for their business is not an easy one,
but of all most laborious.”
|This article may be too long to comfortably read and navigate. Please consider splitting content into sub-articles and using this article for a summary of the key points of the subject.|
Faced with a bewildering array of thousands of autonomous and
hierarchically fluid communities (Jatis),the late 19th century British
colonial administration decided to categorise and rank the entire Hindu
population of India by placing each of the Jatis within the Varna
system for the purposes of the decennial Census, and eventually for
administrative convenience. Simultaneous with the codification into law
of Varna-based caste identities during the British empire, communities
(Jatis) sought to place themselves on higher levels of Varna
categories. On the other hand, most of the Jatis grouped into the lower
caste categories found this arbitrary classification unreasonable,
unfair and unacceptable, as it did not reflect the reality. This newly
frozen materialization of caste created a growing resentment firstly
against the system itself and secondly against the Brahmins, who were
seen to be the beneficiaries of the arrangement which now officially
anointed their place at the top of the social hierarchy. The revolt of
the Justice Party and Periyar in the south, by the Maharaja of Kolhapur
and the outstanding scholar Dr Ambedkar in western India against this,
in the early decades of the twentieth century, has had a profound,
long-lasting impact on the Indian society and politics, which continues
to this date.
Some activists, most prominently at the UN conference at Durban,
have asserted that the caste is a form of racial discrimination. This
view has been disputed by some sociologists such as Andre Béteille, who
writes that treating caste as a form of racism is “politically
mischievous” and worse, “scientifically nonsense” since there is no
discernible difference in the racial characteristics between Brahmins
and Scheduled Castes such as the Jatav. He writes that “Every social
group cannot be regarded as a race simply because we want to protect it
against prejudice and discrimination.”
The Indian government, too, has denied the claims of equivalence
between caste and racial discrimination, pointing out that the issues
of social status is essentially intra-racial and intra-cultural. The
view of the caste system as “static and unchanging” has also been
disputed. The Indian government has been working towards creating
equality between castes with guaranteed seats in educational
institutions, government jobs (and promotions) and even in the
parliament for those of the Scheduled Untouchable castes and tribes.
Scholarships have also been available to all of these groups, so that
they can go on to further education more easily and this has raised
their social status.Sociologists describe how the perception of the
caste system as a static and textual stratification has given way to
the perception of the caste system as a more processional, empirical
and contextual stratification. Others have applied theoretical models
to explain mobility and flexibility in the caste system in India.
According to these scholars, groups of lower-caste individuals could
seek to elevate the status of their caste by attempting to emulate the
practices of higher castes.
The eminent Socio-anthropologistM. N. Srinivas has also questioned
the rigidity of caste and introduced the concept of Sanskritisation..
- Main article: Reservation in India
In rural areas and small towns, the Jati-caste system is part of the
rural cultural values. Many argue rural cultural values and history
should be respected, just like rural society respects city culture. The
Jati-caste system is part of the multicultural heritage of South Asia,
but was distorted by the British Colonial policy, when it was cast into
the theoretical Varna mould. In this artificial Varna-caste system
mutual respect seems a difficult proposition and a distant, if ever
possible goal, due to caste politics.
The Government of India has officially documented castes and
subcastes, primarily to determine those deserving reservation (positive
discrimination in education and jobs) through the census. The Indian
reservation system, though limited in scope, relies entirely on quotas.
The Government lists consist of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and
Other Backward Classes:
- Scheduled castes (SC)
- Scheduled tribes (ST)
- Other Backward Classes (OBC)
The Supreme Court of India on Apr 10 , 2008 upheld the law for 27%
OBC quota the law enacted by the Centre in 2006 providing a quota of 27
per cent for candidates belonging to the Other Backward Classes in
Central higher educational institutions .
- Main article: Caste politics in India
Mahatma Gandhi, B. R. Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru had radically
different approaches to caste especially over constitutional politics
and the status of “untouchables.” Till the mid-1970s, the politics of
independent India was largely dominated by economic issues and
questions of corruption. But since the 1980s, caste has emerged as a
major issue in the Politics of India.
The Mandal Commission was established in 1979 to “identify the
socially or educationally backward,” and to consider the question of
seat reservations and quotas for people to redress caste
discrimination. In 1980, the commission’s report affirmed the
affirmative action practice under Indian law whereby members of lower
castes were given exclusive access to a certain portion of government
jobs and slots in public universities. When V. P. Singh Government
tried to implement the recommendations of the Mandal Commission in
1989, massive protests were held throughout the country. Many alleged
that the politicians were trying to benefit personally from caste-based
reservations for purely pragmatic electoral purposes.
Many political parties in India have openly indulged in caste-based
politics. Parties such as Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) relies on the
Dalits, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Samajwadi Party and the Janata
Dal rely primarily on the support of Other Backward Castes, and Muslims
to win elections.
Caste in Japan
- Main articles: Feudal Japan hierarchy and Burakumin
Two main castes in Japan were Samurai warrior castes and peasants.
Only samurai caste was allowed to bear arms. A samurai had a right to
kill any peasant who he felt was disrespectful.
Japan historically subscribed to a feudal caste system. While modern
law has officially abolished the caste hierarchy, there are reports of
discrimination against the Buraku or Burakumin undercastes,
historically referred to by the insulting term Eta. Studies
comparing the caste systems in India and Japan have been performed,
with similar discriminations against the Burakumin as the Dalits. The
Burakumin are regarded as “ostracised.” The burakumin are one of the
main minority groups in Japan, along with the Ainu of Hokkaid? and
residents of Korean and Chinese descent.
Caste in Korea
The Baekjeong were an “untouchable” outcaste group of Korea,
often compared with the burakumin of Japan and the dalits of India and
Nepal. The term baekjeong itself means “a butcher,” but later
changed into “common citizens” to change the caste system so that the
system would be without untouchables. In the early part of the Goryeo
period (918 - 1392), the outcaste groups were largely settled in fixed
communities. However, the Mongol invasion left Korea in disarray and
anomie, and these groups began to become nomadic. Other subgroups of
the baekjeong are the chaein and the hwachae. During the
Joseon dynasty, they were specific professions like basket weaving and
performing executions. They were also considered in moral violation of
Buddhist principles, which lead Koreans to see work involving meat as
polluting and sinful, even if they saw the consumption as acceptable.
The opening of Korea to foreign Christian missionary activity in the
late 19th century saw some improvement in the status of the baekjeong;
However, everyone was not equal under the Christian congregation, and
protests erupted when missionaries attempted to integrate them into
worship services, with non-baekjeong finding such an attempt
insensitive to traditional notions of hierarchical advantage. Also
around the same time, the baekjeong began to resist the open social
discrimination that existed against them. They focused on social and
economic injustices affecting the baekjeong, hoping to create an
egalitarian Korean society. Their efforts included attacking social
discrimination by the upper class, authorities, and “commoners” and the
use of degrading language against children in public schools.
With the unification of the three kingdoms in the seventh century
and the foundation of the Goryeo dynasty in the Middle Ages, Koreans
systemised its own native caste system. At the top was the two official
classes, the Yangban. Yangban means “two classes.” It was composed of
scholars (Munban) and warriors (Muban). Within the Yangban class, the
Scholars (Munban) enjoyed a significant social advantage over the
warrior (Muban) class, until the Muban Rebellion in 1170. Muban ruled
Korea under successive Warrior Leaders until the Mongol Conquest in
1253. Sambyeolcho, the private Army of the ruling Choe dynasty, carried
on the struggle against the Mongols until 1273, when they were finally
wiped out to the last man in Chejudo. With the destruction of the
warrior class, the Munban gained ascendancy. In 1392, with the
foundation of Joseon dynasty, the full ascendancy of munban over muban
was final. With the establishment of Confucianism as the state
philosophy of Joseon, the Muban would never again gain its former
social standing in Korean society.
Beneath the Yangban class were the Jung-in. They were the
technicians. They served in lower level government bureaucracy. They
were literate, yet were unable to rise into full bureaucratic positions
despite passing the gwageo (central government entrance) exam. This
class was small and specialised.
Beneath the Jung-in were the Chunmin. They were the landless
peasants. These people composed the majority of Korean society until
the 1600s. They were illiterate, and forbidden from marrying into the
Yangban class. During the Japanese invasion of 1592, as many government
genealogical record was burnt, many of them fabricated their social
origin and moved into the Yangban class. With the Manchu invasion of
Korea in the 1627 and 1637 and numerous peasant rebellions that
followed, the ranks of Yangban families swelled up to more than 60% of
the whole country by the late 1800s.
Beneath the Cheonmin were the Sangmin, also called Ssangnom in the vernacular. These were the servant class.
Underneath them all were the Baekjeong. The meaning today is that of
butcher. They originate from the Khitan invasion of Korea in the 1000s.
As they were defeated, instead of sending them back to Manchuria, The
Goryeo government retianed them as warriors, spread out throughout
Korea. As they were nomads skilled in hunting and tanning of leather,
their skill was initially valued by Koreans. Over the centuries, their
foreign origins were forgotten, and were only remembered as butchers
Korea had a very large slave population, nobi, ranging from a
third to half of the entire population for most of the millennium
between the Silla period and the Joseon Dynasty. Slavery was legally
abolished in Korea in 1894 but remained extant in reality until 1930.
With Gabo reform of 1896, the caste system of Korea was officially
abolished. However, the Yangban families carried on traditional
education and formal mannerisms into the 20th century. With the
democratization of 1990s in South Korea, remnant of such mannerisms and
classism is now heavily frowned upon in the South Korean society,
replaced by the myth of egalitarianism. However, with rampant
capitalism, a new aristocracy is slowly developing, caused by a major
gap in income among the people of Korea, with the resulting differences
in education and mannerism.
Caste in Nepal
- Main article: Nepalese caste system
The Nepalese caste system resembles that of the Indian J?ti system
with numerous J?ti divisions with a Varna system superimposed.
Caste in Pakistan
- Main article: Caste system among South Asian Muslims
A caste system similar to that in India is practiced in Pakistan. In
the absence of “classical” castes, typically the proxies used are
ethnic background (Sindhi, Punjabi, Pusthun, Balochi, Mohajir etc.),
tribal affiliations and religious denominations or sects (Sunni, Shia,
Ahmadiyya, Ismaili, Christian, Hindu etc.).
While caste/social stratification information can be found relating
to specific areas in Pakistan, it is not known if any studies have
compared how relatively prevalent such attitudes are amongst the
various ethnic groups, religious sects and geographies. Also, it is not
known if any tracking studies have documented changes in these social
Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that there are quite significant
differences in how social stratification is practised within, and
between, the various ethnic/religious groups in Pakistan.
The social stratification among Muslims in the “Swat” area of North
Pakistan has been meaningfully compared to the Caste system in India.
The society is rigidly divided into subgroups where each Quom (meaning
tribe or nation) is assigned a profession. Different Quoms are not
permitted to intermarry or live in the same community. These tribes
practice a ritual-based system of social stratification. The Quoms who
deal with human emissions are ranked the lowest.
The caste system in Pakistan creates sectarian divide and strong
issues. Lower castes (or classes) are often severely persecuted by the
upper castes (or classes). Lower castes are denied privileges in many
communities and violence is committed against them. A particularly
infamous example of such incidents is that of Mukhtaran Mai in
Pakistan, a low caste woman who was gang raped by upper caste men. In
addition, educated Pakistani women from the lower castes maybe at risk
to be persecuted by the higher castes for attempting to break the
shackles of the local, restrictive system (that traditionally denied
education to the lower castes, particularly the women).
A recent example of this is the case of Ghazala Shaheen, a low caste
Muslim woman in Pakistan who, in addition to getting a higher
education, had an uncle who eloped with a woman of a high caste family.
She was accosted and gang-raped by the upper-caste family. The chances
of any legal action are low due to the Pakistani Government’s inability
to repeal the Hudood ordinance against women in Pakistan, though, in
2006, Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf proposed laws against Hudood
making rape a punishable offense, which were ratified by the Pakistani
senate. The law is meeting considerable opposition from the Islamist
parties in Pakistan, who insist that amending the laws to make them
more civilised towards women is against the mandate of Islamic
religious law.. Despite these difficulties, the law passed and is now
expected to help the situation in regards to women.
The late Nawab Akbar Bugti, the leader of his tribe and fighting for
the Balochistan Liberation Army, criticised Punjabi attitudes to women
when he said, “What respect we give to a woman, irrespective of her
caste, religion or ethnicity, no Punjabi can understand.”
Caste in Sri Lanka
- Main article: Caste in Sri Lanka
- Main article: Caste system in Sri Lanka
Caste in Yemen
In Yemen there exists a caste-like system that keeps the Al-Akhdam
as perennial manual workers for the society through practices that
mirror untouchability. The Al-Akhdam (literally “servants”, plural Khadem)
are the lowest rung in the Yemeni caste system and by far the poorest.
According to official estimates, the total number of Khadem countrywide
is in the neighborhood of 500,000, some 100,000 of which live in the
outskirts of the capital Sana’a, while according to a New York Times
article from February 27, 2008 there are more than a million. The
remainder are dispersed mainly in and around the cities of Aden, Taiz,
Lahj, Abyan, Hodeidah and Mukalla.
The Khadem are not members of the three castes, Bedouin (nomads), fellahin (villagers), and hadarrin
(townspeople), that comprise mainstream Arab society. They are believed
to be of Ethiopian ancestry. Some sociologists theorise that the Khadem
are descendants of Ethiopian soldiers who had occupied Yemen in the 5th
century but were driven out in the 6th century. According to this
theory the al-Akhdham are descended from the soldiers who stayed behind
and were forced into menial labor as a punitive measure.
The Khadem live in small shanty towns and are marginalised and
shunned by mainstream society in Yemen. Khadem slums exist mostly in
big cities, including the capital, Sana’a. Their segregated communities
have poor housing conditions. As a result of their low position in
society, very few children in the Khadem community are enrolled in
school and often have little choice but to beg for money and intoxicate
themselves with crushed glass.
A traditional saying in the region goes: “Clean your plate if it is
touched by a dog, but break it if it’s touched by a Khadem.” Though
conditions have improved somewhat over the past few years, the Khadem
are still stereotyped by mainstream Yemenese society, considering them
lowly, dirty, ill-mannered and immoral.
Many NGO’s and charitable organizations from other countries such as
CARE International are working towards their emancipation, while the
Yemenese government denies that there is any discrimination against the
Caste in the United States
Many, including W. Lloyd Warner, Gunnar Myrdal, and John Dollard,
believe that there is a caste system in the United States based on the
colour of a person’s skin. However, some hold that this relationship
should not be referred to as a full-fledge caste system. Caste systems
are supported by ritual, convention, and law. Status can influence and
determine class, which also determines the caste system where a person
belongs. Weber stressed that class, status, and political power relate
and affect each other.
“Caste structure is an extreme form of status inequality in that
relationships between the groups involved are said to be fixed and
supported by ideology and/or law”. In the US, membership in a specific
caste is often hereditary, marriage within one’s caste is mandatory,
mobility is impossible, and occupation is determined by caste position.
Mobility is possible within one’s caste but not between castes. Race
and ethnic stratification is evident throughout US caste systems. Each
caste system must abide by specific codes of race relations in which
certain behaviors and positions are expected by each group. Caste as
metaphor for race relations was developed academically by Lloyd Warner
’s “American Caste and Class”, Gunnar Myrdal ’s An American Dilemma,
and John Dollard ’s Caste and Class in a Southern Town. Myrdal argued
that “the scientifically important difference between the terms ‘caste’
and ‘class’… is … a relatively large difference in freedom of movement
- Class society
- Feudal society
- Noble lie
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