25 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Some Major Concerns,
By A Customer
This review is from: Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India. (Paperback)
A lucid and though provoking work, Castes of Mind would be close to THE authoritative work on the construction of caste. However the boldness of Dirks's argument, mainly that British rule is responsible for the state of caste today, raises some serious questions, which are not easily answered. Firstly, the book is heavily focused on Southern India, which raises the question of how did this play out in the North, and with whom. The colonial state was not the only actor, and the role of Christian Missionaries in the construction of caste is instructive: no matter how hard they tried to rid the Gangetic plain of caste, it was met with no avail. Secondly, his use of archival material is rather concerning. One one chapter relies heavily on archival material, whlst the remainder is dangerously rhetorical. And lastly, the epilogue raises serious concerns regarding similar scholarship and other interpretations on colonial rule in India. Dirks dismisses offhand essentially any work which might be remotely classified as 'neo-colonial', although he does not seem to quite understand what this concept means. What is most dangerous however is that Dirks dangerously approaches a moral judgement on the British Raj, which is a taboo in the historical profession.
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Initial post: Sep 29, 2012 8:51:38 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 29, 2012 9:05:22 AM PDT
S. Mitra says:
Ha Ha! The Christian missionaries tried to get rid of caste in the Gangetic plain? That gave your game away, didn't it, matey?! No really - I would be just as frustrated as you are if.....IF, after 250 years of attempts to convert the heathen, you have so little to show for it! Only 2 - 3 % Indians are Christians. Others simply won't see the light!
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