“Caste is a notion; it is a state of mind. The destruction of caste does not, therefore, mean the destruction of a physical barrier. It means a notional change.” - Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar in “Annihilation of Caste” (1936)
Caste is one of the most complex, dynamic, and oppressive social systems existing today. Over the last two hundred years, scholars have examined caste from multiple disciplinary perspectives and documented its societal and economic underpinnings. However, as the above quote by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar emphasizes, caste also has a psychological dimension. Among other things, caste is also a state of mind – an entity that emerges from the interaction between the human mind and society. Therefore, as Ambedkar argued to Jat Pat Todak Mandal in 1936, caste would not simply wither away with broad socio-economic changes but would require a radical transformation in people's cognition, emotion, and behavior. It has been more than 80 years since Babasaheb Ambedkar pointed out the need for addressing psychology of caste. The experience of past 80 years suggests that despite sweeping changes brought by forces of democratization, globalisation and development, caste still persists as a decisive psychological factor affecting people’s bodies, minds and social relations. Strangely, despite this ubiquitous relevance of psychological study of caste, a glaring gap exists between caste and psychology.
Psychology has been at the forefront of examining societal inequality and oppression (Fanon, 1967; Martín-Baró, 1994; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999; Tajfel & Turner, 1979). Specifically, social psychologists have addressed the issues of class, gender, racism, and/or colonialism and developed an influential body of theory and research examining group processes and intergroup relations in multiple contexts (Brown & Pehrson, 2019). Feminist psychology has challenged the male-centric praxis of psychology (Unger & Crawford, 1992). Over the last few decades, various critical, discursive, intersectional, and decolonial approaches have emerged that challenge mainstream Euro-American psychology's dominance while proposing new theoretical and methodological innovations (Adams, Dobles, Gómez, Kurtiş, & Molina, 2015; Reicher, 2011). The expansion of integrative fields such as cognitive and affective sciences have opened new epistemic frontiers. Researchers have started looking at explicit and implicit processes implicated in social cognition (Dunham, Baron, & Banaji, 2008). Now useful tools are available for researchers to undertake psychological research in the caste context.
Psychology has over 100 years of history in the Indian subcontinent. Indeed, there has been curiosity and interest in studying caste among psychologists, psychiatrists, and social scientists. However, the psychological research on caste does not go beyond a few sporadic yet notable contributions (see Cotterill, Sidanius, Bhardwaj, & Kumar, 2014; Jaspal, 2011; Mahalingam, 2003). As a result, despite availability of relevant theoretical and research frameworks, the psychological study of caste has remained on the periphery and has only received limited attention within the mainstream academic community and the public. There is an urgent need to work towards establishing psychology of caste as a legitimate field of scientific inquiry.
Notably, while turning our analytic gaze towards the psychology of caste, we need a critical vigilance about psychological frameworks that can pathologize the victims of the social order and maintain the status quo in society (see Jogdand, 2023; Jogdand, Khan, & Mishra, 2016). We also need to be aware of the fact that most psychological theory and research claims to speak for the entire humanity but emanate from its narrow slice in the Euro-American context rightly characterized as “WEIRD” (Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic; Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010). The question, therefore, is not limited to the use of Psychology in efforts to understand and annihilate caste but also includes what sort of Psychology helps or hinders those efforts.
Against this background, we invite contributions that attempt to bridge the theoretical and empirical gap between caste and psychology. Contributions will draw on theoretical and research foundations within Psychology and related fields to bring together emerging perspectives, offer novel insights into caste related cognition, emotion, and behavior, and provide directions for future psychological research on caste.
Authors interested in discussing their manuscripts or respective submissions for this issue are invited to contact the Guest Editor, Yashpal Jogdand with a brief abstract of no more than 250 words.
Manuscripts for this special issue need to be submitted via the J-CASTE submission portal. Please specify “Issue on Caste and Psychology” in the Comments for the Editor. You may submit your manuscript now or up until the deadline. Submitted papers will go through a double-blind peer-review process and should not be under consideration for publication elsewhere.
The themes for the potential papers include but are not limited to the following -
• Potential of psychology to examine oppressive social structures
• Theoretical and methodological issues in the psychological study of caste
• Development of caste consciousness among children and adults
• Prejudice and stereotyping in the caste context
• Legitimation of caste inequality and oppression
• Psychological aspects of collective action and resistance against caste
• Development and expressions of hate against caste and religious groups
• Ethnic isolation and discrimination
• Caste based stigma, humiliation and trauma: experience, impact, and interventions
• Education and curriculum for the psychology of caste
• Competition, cooperation, and conflicts among caste groups
• An intersectional approach to a psychological study of caste
Prof. Yashpal Jogdand,
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences,
Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, India.
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Adams, G., Dobles, I., Gómez, L. H., Kurtiş, T., & Molina, L. E. (2015). Decolonizing psychological science: Introduction to the special thematic section. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3(1).
Brown, R., & Pehrson, S. (2019). Group processes: Dynamics within and between groups: John Wiley & Sons.
Cotterill, S., Sidanius, J., Bhardwaj, A., & Kumar, V. (2014). Ideological Support for the Indian Caste System: Social Dominance Orientation, Right-Wing Authoritarianism and Karma. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 2(1), 98-116.
Dunham, Y., Baron, A. S., & Banaji, M. R. (2008). The development of implicit intergroup cognition. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12(7), 248-253.
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Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). Most people are not WEIRD. Nature, 466(7302), 29-29.
Jaspal, R. (2011). Caste, Social Stigma and Identity Processes. Psychology & Developing Societies, 23(1), 27-62. doi:10.1177/097133361002300102
Jogdand, Y. (2023). Ground Down and Locked in a Paperweight: Toward a Critical Psychology of Caste based Humiliation. Critical Philosophy of Race, 11(1), 33-67. doi:https://doi.org/10.5325/critphilrace.11.1.0033
Jogdand, Y. A., Khan, S. S., & Mishra, A. K. (2016). Understanding the persistence of caste: A commentary on Cotterill, Sidanius, Bhardwaj and Kumar (2014). Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 4(2), 554--570. doi:10.5964/jspp.v4i2.603
Mahalingam, R. (2003). Essentialism, culture, and power: Representations of social class. Journal of Social Issues, 59(4), 733-749.
Martín-Baró, I. (1994). Writings for a liberation psychology: Harvard University Press.
Reicher, S. (2011). Promoting a culture of innovation: BJSP and the emergence of new paradigms in social psychology. British Journal of Social Psychology, 50(3), 391-398.
Sidanius, J., & Pratto, F. (1999). Social dominance: An intergroup theory of social hierarchy and oppression. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1979). An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. In W. G. Austin & S. Worchel (Eds.), The Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations (pp. 33–47). Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Unger, R. K., & Crawford, M. E. (1992). Women and gender: A feminist psychology: Temple University Press.