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Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works Relevant to Anti-Untouchability Movements in Nepal


Compiled by Laurie Ann Vasily


This annotated bibliography is by no means exhaustive of the academic and popular press literature available on these subjects.  Rather it is an initial attempt to identify and annotate some academic resources both broadly and specifically relevant to anti-untouchability social movements in Nepal.




Literature describing Dalit and untouchable social movements in India and Nepal have similar broad themes:  examination of origins of untouchability, assertions of identities, honoring of Dalit resistance, and a focus on the importance of political leaders.  In the English-language sources available in North American libraries, the vast majority of literature focuses on Indian Dalit Movements. 


Deliege, R. (1992). “Replication and Consensus: Untouchability, Caste and Ideology in India.” Man 27: 155-173.

Deliege addresses the issues of replication and consensus among India's untouchable caste as espoused in Moffat's, "An Untouchable Community of South India."  Deliege argues against Moffat's claim that untouchable groups replicate upper-caste Brahmin ideology and traditions in their intracaste relationships and his claim that this replication implies consensual agreement with Brahmin ideology and hence, collusion in their own oppression.  Deliege describes his own ethnographic research with untouchable groups and claims that the untouchables with whom he worked did not view themselves as the Brahmins did, degraded and impure.


Deliege, R. (1993). “The Myths of the Origin of the Indian Untouchables.” Man 28: 533-549.

Deliege counters Weber's claim that the Indian untouchables refer to Hindu orthodoxy to accept their designation as impure.  He provides (some myths with two versions) five examples that he gathered from Paraiyar, Pallar, and Koonar groups as well as commenting on Valaiyar, Chamar, Bhangi and Mahar myths (collected by Gough, Berreman, Moffatt, Molund, and Mosse).   He concludes that there is a high degree of ideological consistency across the various myths in that there these myths indicate a place for untouchables within Hindu caste ideology, but that their position is not immutably imposed by god, but is rather changeable.  He also notes that knowledge about the myths is not widespread or daily meaningful for the majority of untouchable with whom he interacted, and claims that the influence of democratic ideas has resulted in untouchables more strongly viewing their position as unfair.


Mitra, S. K. (1994). Caste, Democracy and the Politics of Community Formation in India. Contextualising Caste. M. Searle-Chatterjee and U. Sharma. Oxford, UK, Blackwell Publishers: 48-71.

Mitra suggests in this article that caste has an important and useful role in Indian identity formation, in that actors can use caste to forward their own interests.  He makes his argument by focusing on competitive politics, positive discrimination, and the market economy.  He argues that caste consciousness and the social action taken on the basis of that consciousness directly challenges essentializing notions of caste as immutable.


Searle-Chatterjee, M. and U. Sharma (1994). Introduction. Contextualising Caste. M. Searle-Chatterjee and U. Sharma. Oxford, UK, Blackwell Publishers: 1-24.

In this introduction to their edited volume, Searle-Chatterjee and Sharma both provide an overview of what is to be found in the book and discuss: using Dumont as a point of departure for renewed theorizing about caste; caste and the denial of agency; the challenges inherent in periodization; comparisons between caste and peasant societies; using the case of the untouchable as a test for social theories and democracy; and relationships between caste, class and family.


Shukra, A. (1994). Caste - A Personal Perspective. Contextualising Caste: Post-Dumontian Approaches. M. Searle-Chatterjee and U. Sharma. Oxford, UK, Blackwell Publishers: 169-178.

          Shukra (a psuedonym) describes his personal identity development as a Dalit growing up in India as well as castism behavior he has experienced in the UK.  He contends that caste ideology is far more flexible than is generally acknowledged in the literature on caste and calls for better understanding of culture, history, and social relations as experienced by dalits.


Yagati, C. R. (1999). Change in Nomenclature: A Historical Note. Dalits: Assertion for Identity. A. Pinto. New Delhi, Indian Social Institute: 84-95.

Yagati traces the emergence of untouchability and the various terms used to refer to people in the untouchable castes.


Dalit Women


Franco, F., I. Macwan, et al. (2000). The Silken Swing: The Cultural Universe of Dalit Women. Calcutta, Stree.


Sob, D. (1997). “Utpidan Bhitra Dalit Mahilaa.” Studies in Nepali History and Society 2(2): 348-353.

Durga Sob, executive director of the Dalit Mahila Sangha, takes a Marxist approach in her analysis of the dual oppression experienced by Nepali Dalit women.  Herself a Dalit woman from Western Nepal, she raises issues for Dalit women from societal discrimination, economic exploitation, lack of educational opportunities, lack of political representation, to poor health and gender discrimination.  She also briefly discusses the manner in which Dalit women are exploited and underrepresented within the feminist movement in Nepal.


Anti-untouchability/Dalit Social Movements


General Overviews

Das, B. (May 21, 2001). Dalit Discrimination and Empowerment. On Line.  Available at: http://www.imadr.org/project/Dalit/article.html

This is a WWW site on the web.  Das is apparently the Moderator of "Dalit Solidarity Peoples," which is apparently part of the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) in India.  This article is a broad overview of the major historical and contemporary issues within Dalit discourse.  He discusses historical perspectives on the development of the varna system, Gandhi's stance toward untouchability, and present political organizing efforts.


Historical Analyses of Dalit Social Movements

These pieces can be generally categorized as examinations of the specific socio-economic, political, and leadership issues that fostered development of Dalit social movements in differing areas of South Asia.  They identify the ideologies confronted by non-Brahman and Dalit social movements as Aryan religious-based ideologies and racial-based colonial ideologies.  They also explore the important question of who was exploited/oppressed by whom in what way.


Omvedt, G. (1994). Dalits and the Democratic Revolution: Dr. Ambedkar and the Dalit Movement in Colonial India. New Delhi, Sage Publications.

This is a richly researched book on Dalit social movements in India written from an historical materialist perspective.  The ten chapters are:  Towards a historical materialist analysis of the origins and development of caste; Caste, region, and colonialism: The context of Dalit revolt; Emergence of the Dalit movement, 1900-30: Nagpur, Hyderabad, Andhra, Mysore; Emergence of the Dalit movement, 1900-30: Bombay Presidency; The turning point, 1930-36: Ambedkar, Gandhi, the Marxists; The years of radicalism: Bombay Presidency, 1936-42; 'Ambedkarism:' The theory of Dalit liberation; Mysore, 1930-56: The politics of Ram-Raj; Andhra and Hyderabad, 1930-46: Foundations of turmoil; Hyderabad and Andhra, 1946-56: Revolution, repression and recuperation.  Omvedt focuses on the role of ideology in forging organized social movements by and for dalits.  There is quite a bit of useful information in this rich book, but a particular strength is her exploration of cultural, socio-political, geographic, and economic differences between various sites where movements were most clearly organized historically.  It is unfortunate that the book ends with Ambedkar's death in 1956.


Zelliot, E. (1992). From Untouchable to Dalit. New Delhi, Manohar.

With this compilation of 16 essays, Zelliott contributes to the historical record of Dalit political and social movement.  Her focus is primarily on Maharasthra and on the leadership of B. R. Ambedkar, but she also discusses religion as it relates to Dalit movements and the emergence of Dalit voice in Indian literature


Reform Movements within Hinduism

Historically and contemporarily, the less radical Dalit movements and movements led by others on the behalf of Dalits have been characterized as taking a reformist approach to the Hindu caste system.  Some of these movements include the Bhakti devotional movements, and Gandhian and Gandhian-inspired approaches to social reform.


Zelliott, E. (1992). Chokhamela and Eknath: Two Bhakti Modes of Legitimacy for Modern Change. From Untouchable to Dalit. New Delhi, Manohar: 3-32.

Zelliott traces the import of two Bhakti saints, Chokhamela and Eknath, on Dalit social movements.  Her conclusion is that Eknath is more often invoked by higher-caste Hindu reformers as an image of a Bhakta sensitive to untouchable issues.  Chokhamela, on the other hand, was himself an untouchable and is more often invoked by dalits themselves, especially in the early times of the Dalit movements in the 1920s and 1930s.  Since Ambedkar's more radical Dalit movement, especially as a result of his personal and political stance on conversion in the 1950s, the Bhakti tradition of Hindu reform has often been rejected as it is not in line with Dalit movement political aims.


Religious Conversions

While close to three million Indian Dalits converted to Buddhism with Ambedkar’s conversion in 1956, many also continue to convert to Christianity.  In doing so, they face oppression as a very small religious minority in India.  Documentation of Nepali conversions to Christianity or Buddhism are unavailable.


Hinnappan, B. C. (May 21, 2001). Dalit Christians. On Line.  Available at:  http://dalitchristians.com/

A WWW site without an explicitly defined organizational sponsor, some of its useful pages include: Dalit History, Dalit Reality, Christian Reality, Dalit Struggles, Dalit Movement, Action, Resolutions, Press Room, Resources, Links, Discussion.  It is a nice resource for Dalit Christian information that focuses predominantly on Indian Dalit Christians.  It does have some reference to Tamil literature, but no broader South Asian connections.


Caste in Nepal


Cameron, M. M. (1998). On the Edge of the Auspicious: Gender and Caste in Nepal. Urbana, University of Illinois Press.

Basically Cameron's dissertation crafted into a book, there are eight chapters and an introduction: Situating low-caste women; Patronage, land and farming; Labor in the Himalayas; Low-caste women's Artisan and Domestic work; Narratives of honor and sexuality; Demystifying the gift: Low-caste marriage and kinship; Bearing the Jat: Childbirth and motherhood; Reconfiguring gender through caste.   The main contributions of her work are in documenting the multiple dimensions of oppression for low-caste women and in making space for low caste women's agency.  In terms of understanding Dalit struggles for liberation, her work falls in the broadly defined category of everyday resistance.  In pp. 47-51 she links her work with Scott (Weapons of the Weak) Haynes & Prakash (Contesting Power), but she does not link her work at all to Dalit social movements.  Another strength of the work is its acknowledgement of the complexities and interrelatedness of gendered and caste-d behavior.


Gellner, D. N. and D. Quigley, Eds. (1999). Contested Hierarchies: A Collaborative Ethnography of Caste among the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley. Calcutta, Oxford University Press.

In this edited volume, Gellner and Quigley provide a forum for discussion of caste among Newars, predominantly of the Kathmandu Valley.  The ten chapters include:  "Introduction" by David Gellner, "Buddhist Merchants in Kathmandu: The Asian Twah Market and Uray Social Organization" by Todd T. Lewis; "Sresthas: Heterogeneity among Hindu Patron Lineages" by Declan Quigley; "Caste and Kinship in a Newar Village" by Hiroshi Ishii; "Urban Peasants: The Maharjans (Jyapu) of Kathmandu and Lalitpur" by David Gellner and Rajendra Pradhan; "The Social Organization of Rajopadhyaya Brahmans" by Gerard Toffin; "Sakyas and Vajracharyas: From Holy Order to Quasi-Ethnic Group" by David Gellner; "The Citrakars: caste of Painters and Mask-Makers" by Gerard Toffin; "Low Castes in Lalitpur" by David Gellner; and "Conclusion: Caste Organization and the Ancient City" by Declan Quigley.        .


Himalayan Research Bulletin (1997). Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 2047 (1990), Asian Studies at University of Texas, Austin. 2001.

          A translation of the full text of the 1990 Nepali Constitution and all of its Articles.


Parish, S. M. (1996). Hierarchy and Its Discontents: Culture and the Politics of Consciousness in Caste Society. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press.

In a highly readable and engaging style, Parish provides this ethnography of Newars from Bhaktapur in Nepal.  The nine chapter books includes: introduction; god-chariots in a garden of castes; equality and hierarchy; constructing hierarchy: India as 'other'; ambivalences; holism and necessity: conflicting versions of caste life; the Indian untouchable's critique of culture; conclusion: the politics of consciousness; postscript: the problem of power.




Barnett, S., L. Fruzzetti, et al. (1976). “Hierarchy Purified: Notes on Dumont and His Critics.” Journal of Asian Studies XXXV(4): 627-638.

The authors discuss six major areas of critique of Homo Hierarchicus, including: the transactional theory of caste (Marriott and Inden’s critique), the exploitation theory of caste (Mencher’s critique), the stratification theory of caste (Berreman, Kroeber); the production theory of caste (Marxist approaches as articulated by Beteille and Meillassoux), and whether or not Muslims have a caste system.  They assert that the mediational form between the west and the east – that of the contrast between hierarchical holism and egalitarian individualism – should not be dismissed as easily as his critics seem to want.


Berreman, G. D. (1960). “Caste in India and the United States.” American Journal of Sociology 66(2): 120-127.

In this article, Berreman makes his classic case for the comparison between the Hindu caste system in India and issues of race in the US.  He also defines caste as a "hierarchy of endogamous divisions in which membership is hereditary and permanent"  (p. 120).  The significance of this definition is its lack of reference to ideological homogeneity among people of differing caste, which contrasts with the views of Dumont and is followers.  Although this article appeared before Dumont's Homo Hierarchicus, it stands as a critique of Dumont's totalizing notion that all Hindu actors accept and replicate Hindu caste ideology in their behavior.


Beteille, A. (1986). “Individualism and Equality.” Current Anthropology 27(2): 121-129.

Beteille forwards the notion that anthropologists need to reconsider the dichotomies of individualism/hierarchy and equality/inequality.  Although he notes its siginificant contributions, he critiques Dumont's Homo Hierarchicus for its lack of relevance for contemporary Indian social and political issues.  He also critiques Homo Equalis on the contention that it has more to do with individualism than equality per se, and his lack of discussion of Simmel's "individualism of inequality" (in sociological terms, a move from ascriptive inequality, or individualism of equality, to inequality based on achievement, or individualism of inequality).  Beteille uses an argument based on Indian Constitutional provisions for the individual rights over and above group rights to assert that even within what has been deemed a hierarchical society are legal provisions for equality.


Beteille, A. (1990). “Race, Caste and Gender.” Man 25(3): 489-504.

Beteille compares race and caste in order to make the larger argument that comparative studies of India and western social systems need not be superficial or misleading, but rather can be fruitful if one keeps in mind that the comparison is on an abstract level, not on the level of actuality.


Dumont, L. (1970). Homo Hierarchicus: An Essay on the Caste System. Chicago, IL, University of Chicago Press.

Dumont's influential work here is focused on understanding the manner in which the Indian caste system functions around the concept of hierarchy.  In the twelve chapters of the book, Dumont discusses: the history of ideas about caste; the concepts of purity and impurity not as elements in a system, but as a structure; the relationship between hierarchy and 'varna'; the division of labor in the caste system; the regulation of marriage; rules concerning food and contact; power and territory; caste government; the roles of renouncers; a comparison of caste with non-Hindu social organizational systems; and a discussion of contemporary trends in the evolution of caste systems.


Quigley, D. (1994). Is a Theory of Caste Still Possible? Contextualising Caste. M. Searle-Chatterjee and U. Sharma. Oxford, UK, Blackwell Publishers: 25-48.

Quigley contends that theories of caste are important and criticizes the trend away from theorizing toward ethnographic description.  He discusses the differences between sociologically based stratification understandings of caste and anthropological understandings.  He differs from Dumont and sides with Hocart in asserting that caste centers on kingship relations and functions in place where there is some degree of centralisation.


Sharma, U. (1994). Berreman Revisited: Caste and the Comparative Method. Contextualising Caste. M. Searle-Chatterjee and U. Sharma. Oxford, UK, Blackwell Publishers: 72-91.

Sharma makes the argument that cross-cultural comparison is a useful tool by revisiting some of Gerald Berreman’s earlier work on the comparisons between race in the US and caste in India.


Social Stratification


Berreman, G. D. (1981). Social Inequality: A Cross-Cultural Analysis. Social Inequality: Comparative and Developmental Approaches. G. D. Berreman. New York, Academic Press: 3-40.

In this chapter, Berreman puts forth a typology for a comparative study of stratification.  He makes distinctions between three sets of concepts: status and class, intrinsic and extrinsic criteria (for membership in a particular group), groups and categories, before discussing what he terms 'the residual categories' of sex, age, stigmatization, and servitude.  He counter functionalist approaches to stratification in asserting that stratification is not "an inevitable feature of the human condition" (p. 35).


Fischer, C. S., M. Hout, et al. (2001). Inequality by Design. Social Stratification: Class, Race and Gender in Sociological Perspective. D. B. Grusky. Boulder, CO, Westview Press: 73-76.

The authors critique the functionalist theory of inequality, which maintains that inequality is inevitable because of its functional importance with the argument that systems of inequality are designed and maintained by those in power in order to retain their dominance in the social order.


Giddens, A. (2001 (1973)). The Class Structure of the Advanced Societies. Social Stratification: Class, Race and Gender in Sociological Perspective. D. B. Grusky. Boulder, CO, Westview Press: 152-161.

David Grusky reprints this Giddens article in his 900-page volume on social stratification.  He makes connections between Weber's concept of 'status group' and the commonly referred to 'social class,' and notes Weber's differences from Marx on theories of class.  He notes that an important area for more theorizing is the bridge between economic class and social class.  He then makes the point that the structuration of class is determined by social mobility.


Grusky, D. B. (2001). The Past, Present, and Future of Social Inequality. Social Stratification: Class, Race and Gender in Sociological Perspective. D. B. Grusky. Boulder, CO, Westview Press: 3-51.

A broad overview of stratification theories, concepts, forms, and sources.  He discusses Marxist, post-Marxist, Weberian, post-Weberian, Durkheim and post-Durkheimian, elite studies, and gradational studies.  Grusky then outlines mobility analysis, processes of stratification, and structural analyses, discusses modern uses of stratification theory (including: market research, postmodern analysis, reproduction theory, and structuration theory).  He concludes with a discussion of ascriptive processes and the future of stratification.


Levine, R. F. (1998). Introduction. Social Class and Stratification: Classic Statements and Theoretical Debates. R. F. Levine. Lanham, MD, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.: 1-9.

In this introductory chapter, Levine sets the stage for the ensuing chapters on Marxist, Weberian, and non-class forms of inequality.  She provides an overview of the basic tenets of Marx's and Weber's theories and explains the fundamental differences between them.  She then briefly discusses the authors in this edited volume who address race and gender as important categories of sociological relevance not adequately addressed by Marx or Weber.