(19-01-2013 05:23 PM)unsorted Wrote: For example, isn't it a reasonable hypothesis that caste schemas exist, particularly in those people who've been exposed to overt casteism from a very young age?
That caste schemas are very much in operation and exert an often unacknowledged influence, can be seen in how many Indians are able to guess the caste backgrounds of strangers
at sight or after a moment's conversation. Guesses of the sort parodied here
, are not immediately implausible in India due to an endogamous standardizing of phenotypes as it were, and linguistic idiosyncracies associated with insular communities, both of which shape and perpetuate caste schemas.
In India, caste schemas which often intersect with regional schemas, are often not just subliminal but bandied out as conventional wisdom, sometimes even by those who claim to represent the interests of underprivileged caste groups. A case in point is a recent statement
by Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav on rural women being electorally disadvantaged because they are 'unattractive'
. While there is more than one thing objectionable in that statement, it serves here as an illustration of how pervasive and pernicious unchallenged schemas can be.
Attitudes such as those held by the Samajwadi Party chief perhaps account at least in part for why certain communities are under-represented in show-biz or in visual media such as electronic news. Such under-representation in the showbiz world was highlighted during protests during the release of the Bollywood movie Aarakshan (as reported in movie-related websites here
), in which Saif Ali Khan was cast in the role of the scheduled-caste student Deepak Kumar. Such casting was a reminder of how Bollywood remains what maybe called an upper-caste and upper-class citadel, and the choice of the 'reigning' Nawab of Pataudi for the role of an underprivileged student was viewed as an instance of Bollywood's refusal to realistically and empathically portray schemas which are too familiar and demonstrably harmful in real life.
Caste schemas contain prejudices not just about appearance, but perhaps more disturbingly, about competence as well. As blogger and IIT alumnus Namit Arora explains here
Quote:Explain the premise of positive discrimination and see eyes roll. ‘We don’t treat them badly anymore,’ one aunty told me, ‘what are they agitating about?’ Mention the benefits of diversity and question narrow ideas of ‘merit’, only to see hateful fear mongering spew out. ‘Oye, what if a scheddu civil engineer built a bridge that collapsed?’ (‘Scheddu’ is a derogatory reduction of Scheduled Caste, the administrative term for Dalits, formerly ‘untouchables’.) ‘What if a scheddu doctor killed a patient?’ The instinct is to associate low-caste with congenital stupidity. It doesn’t occur to them that the beneficiaries of reservation have to pass the same coursework and training as all others. Besides, they have no empirical data on how many fallen bridges were built by scheddus, nor do they know that Dalit children routinely die due to discriminatory practices by ‘merit’ doctors. What, if not prejudice, makes them assume that scheddus build bridges that fall, rather than corrupt upper-caste engineers who steal public funds and use inferior materials? Nor do they hesitate in sending their own under-performing kids to shady engineering and medical institutes that have proliferated—the so-called ‘capitation fee’ colleges—where the sole criteria for admission is money, not ‘merit’, including obscure colleges in the former Soviet block countries cashing-in on the obsession this class has for ‘foreign degrees’.
The movie Aarakshan (currently available for viewing online
), ostensibly about reservations, digresses into issues of access, quality and affordability of education and quite disappointingly, leaves unaddressed questions of the sort raised in this FAQ so far and leaves largely unchallenged the attitudes described by Namit Arora in his posts.