ABSTRACT

This anthology explores a much-neglected theme in South Asian history and politics – namely, the politics of caste in colonial and postcolonial West Bengal. Caste in West Bengal has been notoriously understudied for at least three reasons. First, the political culture of postcolonial West Bengal has tended to make all talk of caste a taboo. Second, West Bengal, unlike many other regions in India, has not experienced major caste-based social movements since 1947. Third, the ruling elites of this eastern Indian region, the bhadralok , though internally differentiated along many axes, have exercised a virtually uncontested social dominance that is rather unique, even in a country where the reproduction of power relations is anything but uncommon. In The Politics of Caste in West Bengal , we address each of these intellectual and political concerns by taking an interdisciplinary perspective that draws on scholarship in the fields of history, anthropology, sociology, political science, and cultural studies. Our purpose is to interrogate not only why caste continues to be neglected in the politics of and scholarship on West Bengal but also how caste relations have, in fact, permeated the politics of the region in the colonial and postcolonial eras.