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Caste Systems and Human Development Svetlana Ten Nino Gugushvili Stefan Gyoshev Tenyo Arabadzhiev Fall 2005


Outline Caste system The countries with caste system India Japan Senegal Influences of caste systems on Human Development

1. Caste system defined: 

1. Caste system defined The word caste is derived from the Portuguese casta meaning lineage, breed, or race.

2. The countries: : 

2. The countries: Asia: India, Japan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka; Africa: Senegal, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Yemen, Niger, Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya.

Key characteristics: : 

The concept of ‘purity-pollution’. An inherited occupational role. Inability or restricted ability to alter inherited status. Socially enforced restrictions on inter-marriage.  Segregation in location of living areas, and in access to and use of public places  Subjection to debt bondage. Generalized lack of respect for their human dignity and equality. Key characteristics:

3. Indian caste system : 

Indian caste system is routed in Hinduism and its order of four castes and four stages in life. Originates from the Aryan invaders four to five thousand years ago. 3. Indian caste system

Indian caste system : 

The social organization of India is based on two fundamental notions: the natural endowment, nurture and upbringing. Varna Ashrama Vyavasta Varna means “color” Indian caste system

Nurture and upbringing : 

Nurture and upbringing Dharma (a man) has to go through four stages of life: Brahmacharya – student stage, Gruhastas Ashrama – householder stage, Vanaprasta Ashrama – hermitage state, Sanyasa Ashrama – strive towards moshka or liberation.

Natural Endowment : 

Brahmins – priests and teachers Kshatriyas – warriors, rulers and landlords. They are the main source of food. Vaishyas – merchants. They sell all kind of products. Shudras – laborers, agriculturalists. They sell all kind of services. Harijans - Untouchables (polluted laborers). They were regarded so dirty that weren’t even touched by people from upper castes. Natural Endowment

Caste system in India : 

Caste is is an endogamous group: Marriage is allowed only within caste. Caste is a social unit. It is autonomous: Each caste sets its own rules. Caste system in India

Castes in India : 

The top three castes are entitled to wear the “sacred thread” because they are “twice-born”. “Twice-born” means that in second birth these castes have been admitted to the study of Vedas, and are recognized as privileged Hindus. Castes in India The Vedas

The Untouchables : 

Social stratification has ousted the untouchables from the rest of Indian society. The Untouchables

The Untouchables : 

Also called Pamchams, Atishudras, Avarnas, Antyajas, Namashudras. Emerged from forbidden and tabooed mixing between the high and the low castes. The Untouchables were also made Unseeable, Unapproachable, Unhearable. Untouchables had no surname. They did not choose their children’s names. Untouchable women could not wear any clothes above waste. Untouchables could not enter a Hindu temple. The Untouchables

Caste system in India : 

After the emergence of Buddhism there have been attempts to abolish caste system. In 1833 the British declared that no person on account of “his religion, place of birth, descent, color” would be disabled from holding any office or employment. In 1860 the British enacted the Indian Penal Code. Great movement against caste system was started by Mahatma Ghandi. Caste system in India

Caste system in India : 

The barriers between the sub-caste weakened in the twentieth century. The Indian Constitution of 1950 proclaimed the principle of equality to all citizens irrespective of caste differences, and abolished the practice of untouchability. Caste system in India

4. Caste system in Japan: 

4. Caste system in Japan Princes and courtiers Samurai Farmers Traders Buraku (eta and hinin)

Princes and courtiers : 

Princes and courtiers Very few with no effective role; More honorific than otherwise practising luxurious living. The 12th-century Emperor Toshinari Male Figure, possibly Prince Shotoku,Kamakura period, early 14th century, Gilt bronze


Samurai Scholars and warriors who formed the governing caste; The class – established primarily as defensive unit end of 8th century; The caste – formed in the end of 16th century.

Samurai – continued: 

Samurai – continued At the end of 16th c forced to decide between a life on the farm and a warrior life in castle towns. Later, according to the Edo (1603 – 1868) Period's official hierarchy, samurai rose to the top. Forced to live in castle towns and received income from their lords. The fall of Osaka Castle in 1615 resulted in relative peace that prevailed for about 250 years.

Samurai – continued: 

Samurai – continued The peace reduced the importance of martial skills so the most samurai became bureaucrats, teachers or artists. In 1868, Japan's feudal era came to an end, and the samurai class was abolished.

Farmers : 

Farmers Responsible for the food supplies. Economic importance earned them some social respect. Could be promoted and absorbed in the samurai caste depending on their talent, opportunities and luck. The "live folkloric villiage" of Shirakawa-go near Japanse city of Takayama


Traders Although quite wealthy, they were placed low because they were perceived as parasites. No directly contribute to the production of wealth. A conclusion: economic exploitation is not the basis of the caste system.


Burakumin Outcastes, origin of the present Buraku people, placed at the bottom of the society as Eta (extreme filth) and Hinin (non-human) classes. Live in segregated areas in the village. Could not travel during daytime Traditional occupations include: -for eta – disposers of dead cattle, producers of leather, security guards and sweepers; -for hinin – security guards, executioners and performers; -Source of discrimination in religion as the functions are labeled 'polluting acts' under Buddhist and Shintoist beliefs.

Burakumin – continued: 

Burakumin – continued Not liable for taxation in feudal times – no rice income. The status afforded them a monopoly in their trades. So some succeeded economically, and occasionally obtained samurai status through marriage. Current number is ~3 million or 2.5 % of total Japanese population. The lowest social rank was abolished since 1871 without any effective measures.

Economic implications of caste system in Japan: 

Negative - caste system hindered economic development; - monopoly: only samurai were allowed to carry a sword. Positive - Specialization of labor - 250 years of peace - development of art, music, and folklore Economic implications of caste system in Japan

5. Caste system in Senegal: 

Similar characteristics as of Indian caste system In ethnic groups: the Wolof, Tukulóor, Sereer, Fulbe, Mandinko, Malinke, and Sarakolé. Together they comprise 83 % of the Senegal’s population The Wolof group is the biggest 5. Caste system in Senegal

The Wolof group: 

Geer – landowners Neeno – divided into three groups: a. Artisans – Tegg (smiths), Uude (leather workers), Seen (wood cutters), Rabb (weavers) b. Gewel – griots which mainly functioned as musicians; c. Noole – servants and the jestures; Jaam – slaves The Wolof group

Caste system in Senegal: 

Marriage allowed only within caste; Inherited craftsmanship. The government prohibited all forms of discrimination and discriminatory propaganda through the Constitution. Numerous Acts prohibit discriminatory activities by organizations, public institutions. Caste system in Senegal

5. Human Development: 

5. Human Development Influence of castes on Human Development in the past Influence of castes on Human Development nowadays

a. Influences of castes on Human Development in the past: 

a. Influences of castes on Human Development in the past Caste enabled heterogeneous people to live in recognized stable relationship. Caste and its religious basis gave strong continuity to Hindu life and learning. Indian literature transmitted orally from father to son. It would be impossible without specialization. A wide range of beautiful arts and crafts were preserved though father-son apprenticeship.  Within each caste grew up a firm solidarity and sense of responsibility. Caste status prevented personal choice and lessened maladjustment.

b. Influences of castes on Human Development today: 

b. Influences of castes on Human Development today Caste seriously restricts newly valued individual freedom. Life expectancy had risen while infant mortality is still unacceptably high. Majority of the people belong to the low-caste and are not able to provide for themselves and their children. Adult literacy rate is much lower in the scheduled classed compared with national average.


Around one in 25 people in the world experiences some form of caste discrimination. More than half of these are in India.


Thank you! Svetlana Ten Nino Gugushvili Stefan Groshev Tenyo Arabadzhiev Fall 2005

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