This question was prompted by some comments I read on Nirmukta articles. Can we formulate a general principle to tell whether or not endogamy is right or wrong in a given situation? For example, in the United States, whites tend to marry whites and blacks tend to marry blacks. Does that make people like President Obama a racist unless it was a pure coincidence that Michelle Obama was black?

In formulating a general principle, I am hoping that we can apply it back to India and the caste endogamy question.
I don't think it is inherently wrong to marry within a race or caste. But what would wrong is preventing someone from marrying outside the group. I think that's a good principle to go by. Applying it to caste endogamy, marrying out of caste is generally frowned upon and in many cases has resulted in emotional blackmails and threats of violence and in some cases actual violence.
Thanks for the response, Lije.

Many people who are fighting caste, however, point to matrimonial ads in newspapers as evidence that caste still persists. Does this claim necessarily contradict what you posted above?
(13-Jul-2013, 03:11 AM)Sachin1 Wrote: Thanks for the response, Lije.

Many people who are fighting caste, however, point to matrimonial ads in newspapers as evidence that caste still persists. Does this claim necessarily contradict what you posted above?

It would contradict if the context is that people freely marry outside of caste. But since that is not the situation, and we know that a strong belief in maintaining a caste purity is the cause of the situation, pointing out matrimonial ads based on caste doesn't contradict the idea behind what I'd posted earlier. If caste wasn't such a big problem, such ads would be a mere curiosity like someone asking "Bride/Bridegroom should be a pet lover".
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I think it would always be a little more than that though, not just a "pet lover." In the US, many people put race preference on dating website profiles using the justification that different races have different cultures.

Noone turns heads there, but given my exposure to India, the race thing seems legitimate at the individual level but dangerous on a large-scale.
This is very much like any other social issue.

Sometime back a member on IADC had asked "Is it wrong to want a male baby?"
Now everyone understands that the so called individual taste is highly influenced by culture. So we can gauge how such a *want* is a genuine individual taste or a socially imbibed bias. If its a genuine individual taste, then its unlikely that it will have geographical/cultural correlation. But if its highly correlated based on ones family/society/nation etc. then there is reasonable doubt for it being individual preference.

I don't think anybody will every buy this argument from a religious person: "It just happens that an individuals choice of religion is correlated with her/his parents religion", its difficult to buy, in a culturally biased society (talking about India) that endogamy is a individual preference.
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Let me put a tangent on this discussion.

I understand that this discussion on Endogamy is in the context of caste. But isn't all marital relations always endogamous in some sense? Even inter-caste or inter-religious marriages are between people who are similar to each other, ie mostly from the same socio economic class. To me it seems that marriage as an institution is built for endogamy.
(15-Jul-2013, 10:40 PM)Captain Mandrake Wrote: To me it seems that marriage as an institution is built for endogamy.

If you could elaborate.

Because I can't see the link. Marriage, on the face of it, comes across as contract between parties involved. The endogamous nature, i.e. preference for people from same social/cultural/financial background seems to be a more innate behavior.

Do you mean the weddings are built for endogamy?

Quote:Marriage, on the face of it, comes across as contract between parties involved. The endogamous nature, i.e. preference for people from same social/cultural/financial background seems to be a more innate behavior.

Yes. It is a contract between parties involved. But unlike other contracts for a marriage market to work the parties involved have to find opportunities (work, school, recreational activities, social gatherings like attending church) to physically meet each other. My assumption is that people typically spend most of the time with people that are similar to them during such opportunities not necessarily because of personal preference but because of the nature of these activities (eg. Rich kids meet each other at private schools. Doctors/lawyers meet each other at work place.). When I say similar I mean in terms of wealth status, educational background and future earning potential. It is because of this implicit constraint to pick a mate from among one of your social groups that I believe marriages are endogamous by nature atleast in the sense of it being between people of similar socio economic status.

PS: In the first post I shouldn't have said that marriage as a institution is build for endogamy. Instead I should have said because of the way people tend to meet each other marriages are mostly endogamous.
I once heard LGBT activist Dr. Judith Halberstam say during a lecture how demands for marriage equality are 'a betrayal of the early gay rights movement'. When pressed for a clarification for that comment which had made many audience members nod in disbelief, Dr. Halberstam said that 'marriage as an institution was always defined by its exclusions' and therefore efforts to assimilate into this institution is somehow at odds with what at heart is a movement of inclusion.

While these views were self-admittedly outside the mainstream of LGBT advocacy, they serve as a reminder of a key aspect of marriage, that it has an institutional besides the contractual character that is more often emphasized. A marriage is in a sense an establishment, as the phrase 'institution of the family' constantly reminds. A choice of if, when and whom to marry has traditionally been viewed less as an act of 'free expression' and more as an exercise of the historically more regulated right of 'free association', again out of an implicit recognition of its institutional character.

Therefore an unmistakably 'establishment act' like marriage isn't an intuitively radical act to start with. If marriage is the triumph of hope over experience, a solemnized marriage is also the triumph of an act of abiding citizenship over the radical's discomfort with treating anything as fait accompli. One's own marriage isn't typically where one is keen on relaxing all assumptions about relationships.

Even when someone intent upon making a statement through their marriage, this caveat from David Brooks stated here in another context becomes applicable:
Quote:If you go to Wall Street mostly to make money for charity, you may turn yourself into a machine for the redistribution of wealth...Taking a job just to make money, on the other hand, is probably going to be corrosive, even if you use the money for charity rather than sports cars.
Likewise, making an ideological statement as a consideration of one's marriage to the extent of sometimes being at odds with the deeply personal commitment that underlies marriage, can also be corrosive. To treat marriage as a personal sacrifice for the public good, rather than as a personal choice of willing commitment, has its downsides. Ideological considerations may matter surprisingly little in the cordial conduct of a marriage, which is more subject to such imponderables as the 'compatibility' of personalities and preferences. Stated in more next-door terms, "What matters most is mutual love and respect and such jargon as exogamy and endogamy shouldn't come in the way!"

Is any of this an argument against 'exogamy'? Not by any means! It is only a good-natured warning about the flipsides of viewing marriage as a political act. How then, may crossovers be encouraged in an area where adventure is rare? A start maybe made during conversations at a time when marriage is the last thing on one's mind and when revolutionary-seeming possibilities seem more possible to entertain, so that these considerations present themselves unbidden when one is in the thick of things indeed considering marriage. Endogamy or exogamy isn't something to discuss on the eve of a wedding ('arranged' or otherwise) or when a person is deeply in love, and this means that the discourse is urgent and overdue for beginning now. Of course, as mentioned here, the following caveats apply:
Quote:Often any intervention we may attempt is circumscribed by notions of 'personal space' and 'civil liberties'. If justifications of unorthodox choices in matters such whom to marry and how to raise one's children, can be provided invoking by civil liberties, then the same liberties can be invoked to justify orthodox choices as well!

Edit 19/08/2013 : Added video link to Prof. Halberstam's lecture (which became available this weekend)
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I think you are right. I have many friends who claim that what "group" you are from-- regardless of race, religion, profession, etc. shouldn't have any bearing on whom you choose to marry. When pressed further, however, they claim that sexual attraction should be the basis for marriage as it is in the "state of nature."

However, even in this "state of nature," we would still be endogamous! I remember watching a show on the Discovery Channel in which it is stated that within big "groups" like race or religion, attractive people tend to pair with attractive people, and unattractive with unattractive. In a way, this is no more fair than caste endogamy because one cannot easily change how attractive they are.

That being said, while we disparage caste endogamy, why don't we disparage class endogamy? One could argue that the persistence of class divides is due to the rich marrying the rich and the poor marrying the poor. Would not intermarriage mitigate poverty? Personally, I would probably not marry a very poor, uneducated person-- but is this not just as immoral as not marrying someone from another caste?
Google search on social endogamy returned this. It appears to be a chapter in a book.


I have not read it in detail but quickly breezed through it. It analyzes endogamy through 5 driving factors.

1) Likelihood of meeting partners in marriage market

2) Geographical marriage horizon

3) Social pressure

4) Personal autonomy

5) Personal preferences

Would be nice to analyze caste endogamy based on this framework.

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