A Critique of Sanskritization from Dalit/Caste-Subaltern Perspective

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Ishita Roy


Students and social scientists concerned with caste studies will agree to a socio-cultural phenomenon called Sanskritization among people of caste communities that are not recognized as belonging to castes primarily affiliated to either of the three varnas of Brahman, Kshatriya and Vaishya. What is Sanskritization? Following M. N. Srinivas, who put forward the concept of Sanskritization in Religion and Society among the Coorges of South India (1952) to explain upward social movement (?) among Hindu tribal groups or ‘lower’ caste groups imitating and gradually incorporating ‘upper’ caste people’s social, cultural behaviour, rituals, customs, and religious practices, there exist an array of works deliberating upon this collective behavioural instance called Sanskritization (Beteille, 1969; Gould, 1961; Patwardhan, 1973; Sachchidananda, 1977; Lynch, 1974). These studies have generally accepted Sanskritization as an effective tool for cultural integration between different caste groups by ensuring movements of people across caste barriers; in other words, Sanskritization spells a common idiom of social mobility (Beteille, 1969, p. 116).

This paper does not support the view that Sanskritization has been an effective socio-cultural instrument in moving towards a society that does not swear by caste-principles. Rather, Sanskritization, a concrete social fact among the ‘lower’ castes people, seems to obliquely prove the productive logic of caste through the imitation of the Brahmin. Following Gramsci’s conceptualisation of the necessity of a subaltern initiative in any counter-hegemony project, the paper further argues that Sanskritization is regressive to the extent that it is antithetical to any such subaltern political initiative against caste.


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Roy, I. (2021). A Critique of Sanskritization from Dalit/Caste-Subaltern Perspective. CASTE / A Global Journal on Social Exclusion, 2(2), 315-326. https://doi.org/10.26812/caste.v2i2.292
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