De/geneticizing Caste: Population Genetic Research in South Asia

Yulia Egorova
2009 Science as Culture  
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more » ... full DRO policy for further details. Abstract Recent years have witnessed a number of population genetics studies aiming to explore the 'genetic profile' of the South Asian population and to cast light on the 'ethnic' composition of the caste system. This paper examines four genetic studies and their mass media representations, as well as discusses interviews with leading historians and social scientists whose work focused on issues of the caste system. Similar to earlier commentatorsfrom colonial scholars and administrators to Hindu reformers and nationalistswho provided different explanations for the origin of the caste system, recent genetic studies have offered conflicting inferences on the nature of castes and tribes of the subcontinent. These studies, the way they were received on the subcontinent, and assayed by historians of caste, tell a story about agendas of geneticization competing with forces of resistance. On the one hand, they signal a new interest in the debate about the relationship between caste and 'ethnicity'. On the other hand, they are used selectively by different social groups to strengthen their own political agendas, are denied cognitive validity by historians of caste, and they never reached a consensus about the history of caste formation.
doi:10.1080/09505430902806975 fatcat:3ls7vx6e4bc37nl7hlw75lfa4y