Thursday, October 20, 2011

Layers upon Layers of Identity in India

While reading Kaker and about the violence in Pardiwada, I came across this passage:

"It was strikingly apparent that the Pardis' self-identification as Hindus occurs only when the talk of the Muslim; otherwise the conversation is of Pardis, Lodhas, Brahmins, Marwadis, and other castes. It seems a Hindu is bron only when the Muslim enters. Hindus cannot think of themselves as such without a simultaneous awareness of the Muslim's presence." (107)

Now, as a student of history and political science, I found this observation pretty significant. India, since its settlement in the Vedic Age has been cut across different caste lines. There was little sense of an 'ethnic' or 'national' identity that we are familiar with in the West. One was identified, and thus tied to, whatever class they were born in. However when talking about religion, the Pardis felt they were part of a larger, national identity.

I think the Pardis are a microcosm of the bigger effects of religion in relation to ethnic identity. Oftentimes spirituality erases ethnic borders. As shown by this example religion has the power to unite a whole sub-continent of people. For India, that's about 1 billion people are connected by a single similar theme.

This is not a new idea. Religion has been shown to unite many people across the world together. However, my point is that for a deeply stratified society as India, religion has a very powerful role in bonding 1 billion diverse peoples, cultures, and customs under a single banner.

Does this case translate to other religions and cultures in stratified societies, or is this only because of a religious conflict?


  1. Nice call Hillsberg. You must have read Staub's mind when you wrote this blog. It is such a crazy idea that a group's identity is determined by the presence of the "other." But is this idea new? Think about your high school football games. It is a rare time when all the students, parents, and teachers come together from their separate cliches and groups to cheer for their collective high school team and against the rival school. The students are part of their individual groups (seniors, juniors, jocks, nerds, etc) primarily but in battle (at the football stadium) the groups are united. This is another situation where Religion parallels sports in the US.

  2. awesome observation bud. I think there's more to this sports and religion thing.