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Social Stratification: An Interdisciplinary Discourse

Dev N. Pathak

Edited by Abdul R. JanMohamed
Routledge, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 451, 995.00

VOLUME XXXV NUMBER 12 December 2011

The boredom of teaching and learning social stratification in the ambit of social science is nearly an abiding experience in academia. Teachers end up recycling the monolithic categories and students learn the trick of obtaining good grades in the course. The categories of social stratification, such as race, gender, class and caste, appear merely as indices-in-a-moribund genre. They do not trigger the imagination of students. Teachers fail to rejuvenate any fresh debate. Eventually everyone concludes that a course in social stratification has no room for new possibilities. Abdul JanMohamed's edited volume offers a discourse that can repudiate this. There is no dearth of possibilities for new stances. Reading this volume affirms that there is a good enough space for teachers to explore contemporary social theories and restructure the study of social stratification as an engaging discourse. However, the prerequisite is to transcend the limits of social science, aptly characterized as 'epistemological fallacy', which restricts it to intellectually arrogant and dominant sets of knowledge. Only then can we understand the categories that appear like hackneyed anchorage in a reified discourse as dynamic lived-reality. By juxtaposing epistemological knowledge with somatic-ontological complexities, these categories assume relational value. A student of social stratification might begin to understand thereby their deeper implications. More often than not a debate on caste is lost in translation from the system of the past into the present political reincarnations of the same. Gender appears more like a feminist preoccupation/obsession than a real issue and the question of homosexuality seems an elitist engagement; a deliberation on class smacks more of an ideology than a real phenomenon. Political implications of these terms become too dominant to obtain a patient-reflexive- approach to the same. All this could be traced to the 'narcissistic self examination' that constitutes epistemological knowledge. It is structurally predisposed to privilege 'difference' over 'identity'. Departing from the simplistic structural-functionalism, intellectually fashionable structuralism and the fad of post-structuralist celebration of differences, this edited volume invites an ontological turn in the epistemological knowledge. Thereby, it underscores the significance of subconscious somatic knowledge to refresh the debate on race in interaction with class, ethnicity and gender. The interaction of these categories of stratification is ontic reality because ontogenetic (natural/biological/genetic) and phylogenetic (socio-cultural construct) fuse in the human experience in society. The sense of identity along the lines of social stratification entails, thus, both the active-conscious and passive-unconscious consent of ...

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