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G.S. George

FAMILY AND CASTE IN URBAN INDIA: A CASE STUDY
By G.N. Ramu
Vikas, New Delhi, 1977, 222, 50.00

VOLUME II NUMBER 4 July-August 1977

The family is the vehicle, the accul­turating medium through which the norms, values, and sentiments of the wider society are articulated and express­ed. In Family and Caste in Urban India based on a study conducted in the Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) in Karnataka, the author traces with incisive analytical ability the thread of the family and its ramifications for the institution of marri­age, the household, kinship, caste, collat­eral individual or friendship ties to the household and kinship structure, and the extent to which these ties are governed by the factors of caste, class and religion. The endogamy rule within the caste framework and its contribution to ‘the orderly replacement of family culture’ thus brings into focus the role of the family in perpetuating caste conscious­ness. In a growing industrial township composed of a migrant population under the stress of acute economic and social factors embracing differential depriva­tion levels, ‘what makes the family important in the continuation of caste or jati’, notes the author ‘is the individual's dependence and identity with his family and jati’. In bringing about the symbiotic rela­tionship between the family and caste consciousness, the author focuses on Farber's concept of 'family culture' as opposed to Fortes's 'social capital', since in the former the family is regarded as an independent variable, whereas in the latter, the domestic group is simply the bearer of wider social cultural imperatives. In this inter-relationship between the family and caste, the author posits: the individual is ‘the link between the family and the caste, and by upholding family and caste norms and values, becomes a point of articulation of both.’ Adopt­ing a developmental cycle framework within which to delineate his analysis, the author very laudably tries to bring about a synthesis between Gould's deve­lopmental cycle (where coparcenary ties are extremely important) and the classi­cal Hindu version of the developmental cycle encompassing the four distinct phases of Brahmacharya, Garhastya, Vanaprastha, and Sanyasa, since the ele­ment of 'time' and 'function' (biological and social reproduction) is involved in both. While recognizing the weakness of the Hindu developmental cycle, em­bedded as it were in caste and religion and, therefore, involving differential hierarchical significance and applicability as regards the phases, the author never­theless attempts to continue with this approach since ‘one is bound to recog­nize the continuity of several features of the varna-ashrama although ...


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