Caste as a Socio-Psychological Construct: Theoretical and Empirical Expositions

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G. C. Pal


Caste in India is intricately and inevitably linked to multiple issues specifically in the context of intergroup relations and behaviours, and social inequality. Despite the perceived changes in the caste system and its manifestations, it is acknowledged that caste continues to exist in the Indian psyche as part of everyday life. An engagement with the ‘caste question’ as a matter of socio-psychological analysis has significance given the fact that caste involves social, cognitive and emotional elements that contribute to having different meanings for social groups, and generate different forms of affective and behavioural responses. With the recognition of the dearth of research on ‘psychology of caste’, this article attempts to provide insights into underlying socio-psychological processes in the persistence and pervasiveness of caste, and caste-based oppressive behaviours. Building on the recent debate and contestation on the transformations in caste, gaps in the mainstream psychological research on caste in India, and Ambedkar’s psychological expositions of caste, the article focuses on the issues of socio-psychological construction of caste, the protuberant manifestations of caste in the forms of caste-based discrimination and violence, and responses to such oppressive behaviours through the lens of socio-psychological frameworks. It is argued that changes in the expressions of caste in contemporary society influence the social cognition of caste groups to espouse varied responses. The increased resistance to the perceived ‘identity threats’ makes the social groups strive to strengthen their ‘collective identity’, in turn, sustaining the caste in contemporary society. The article calls for research to explore shades of caste from socio-psychological perspectives rather than looking at it primarily as a demographic variable. It also advocates for strategic psychological interventions using both legal and social tools at the societal level, with a specific focus on blurring ‘caste boundaries’ and breaking the ‘caste wall in mind’.

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Pal, G. C. (2024). Caste as a Socio-Psychological Construct: Theoretical and Empirical Expositions. CASTE A Global Journal on Social Exclusion, 5(2), 121–142.
Research Articles