ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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States, Tribes, Castes

A Historical Re-exploration in Comparative Perspective

This paper begins by pointing out that the way the term "tribe" is used in Indian sociology and political discourse does not fit the observed characteristics of the peoples labelled such in any part of the world. It then reconsiders the long history of social categories across the Indian subcontinent to develop a new model of dominant landed community that would apply across all its regions and faiths. In conclusion, it suggests some new terms that might replace tribe in Indian social thought.

This paper draws in part from the corrected Indian reprint of a book titled Beyond Caste: Identity and Power in South Asia, Past and Present published in 2013 by E J Brill, Leiden and now forthcoming from Permanent Black in India. I am grateful to both publishers for permission to reuse materials from that work.

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