ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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From Colonial Anthropometry to Contemporary Genetics

Science and Theories of Caste Origins

This article delineates three phases of scientific enquiry into caste origins and identifies a set of social and political agendas which were, and continue to be, affected by the results of those enquiries. It examines debates between colonial administrators which led to a "racial theory" of caste origins at the turn of the 19th century; various refutations of and modifications to the racial theory, largely by Indian scholars, in the 20th century; and contemporary genetic studies. It concludes that scientific studies of caste origins should be subject to particularly careful scrutiny in light of the social and political context in which their results are deployed.

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