This book presents an alternative view of caste in Indian society by analysing caste structure and change in local communities in Orissa from historical and anthropological perspectives.

Focusing on the agricultural society in the Khurda district of Orissa between the eighteenth century and 2019, the book links discussions on the current transformation of society and politics in India with analyses of long-term historical transformations. The author suggests that, beyond status and power, there is another value which is important in Indian society, namely ontological equality, which functions as the politico-ethical ground for asserting respect and concern for the life of others. The book argues that the value of ontological equality has played an important role in creating and affirming the diverse society which characterises India. It further contends that the movement towards vernacular democracy, which has become conspicuous since the second half of the 1990s, is a historically groundbreaking event which opens a path beyond the postcolonial predicament, supported by the affirmation of diversity by subalterns based on the value of ontological equality.

This important contribution to the study of Indian society will be of interest to academics working on the social, political and economic history, sociology, anthropology and political science of South Asia, as well as to those interested in social and political theory.

chapter 1|24 pages


Towards a cultural politics of ethics in everyday practice
Size: 7.82 MB

chapter 2|19 pages

Managing diversities

Frontiers, forest communities and little kingdoms
Size: 2.23 MB

chapter 3|44 pages

Local society and kingship

Reconsidering ‘caste’, ‘community’ and ‘state’
Size: 1.76 MB

chapter 4|16 pages

Early colonial transformation

The emergence of wedged dichotomies
Size: 1.47 MB

chapter 5|23 pages

Consolidation of colonial dichotomy

Political economy and cultural identity
Size: 1.34 MB

chapter 6|29 pages

Postcolonial tradition

The biomoral universe
Size: 3.81 MB

chapter 7|21 pages

Cash and faction

‘The logic of the fish’ in the political economy
Size: 0.62 MB

chapter 8|39 pages

Ritual, history and identity

The Goddess Rāmacaṇḍī festival
Size: 14.97 MB

chapter 9|23 pages

Recast(e)ing identity

Transformations from below
Size: 2.43 MB

chapter 10|21 pages

Vernacular democracy

A post-postcolonial transformation
Size: 0.57 MB

chapter 11|9 pages


Beyond the postcolonial
Size: 0.33 MB