Caste is frequently seen as a distinctive characteristic of South Asian cultures and societies. However, there has been much interesting caste-related research in recent years - and throughout the history of the concept - that questions this representation. Scholars note that the term 'caste' is of Portuguese origin, and that its historical antecedents are complex. Leaders in postcolonial and colonial times have interpreted the term to support very different social, cultural, and national visions. In classical times also, the meanings, ontology, and ethics of jati and / or varna were contested.

The UHM Center for South Asian Studies has accordingly developed this small project to introduce junior and non-specialist members of the UH and broader research community to the notion of 'caste' as a critical and contested concept. We hope these preliminary resources will prove useful to those who want to take caste into the classroom.

The resources provided fall into three categories:

Internet Resouces

Recent Scholarly Perspectives on Caste

Sample Passages from Primary Texts

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(Developed and researched by Amy Donahue, Nov. 2008)