Chapter

Caste and Conservation

Madhav Gadgil and Ramachandra Guha

in This Fissured Land

Second edition

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780198077442
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199082155 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198077442.003.0003

Series: Oxford India Perennials Series

Caste and Conservation

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Indian subcontinent experienced a major resource crunch between the fourth to tenth centuries of the Christian era. Caste society had developed an elaborate system of the diversified use of living resources that greatly decreased inter-caste competition, and frequently assured that a single caste group had monopoly over the use of any specific resource from a given locale. Different caste populations traditionally moderated or largely removed inter-caste competition through diversifications in resource use and territorial exclusion. The interpretation of the caste system as a form of ecological adaptation may be employed to show the two different paths by which conflicts between different modes of resource use are resolved: path of extermination and path of selective incorporation. The geographical diversity of the Indian subcontinent and the productivity of hilly and forested areas enabled the continuance of hunting-gathering and shifting agriculture in large expanses where the plough could not penetrate.

Keywords: caste society; conservation; Indian subcontinent; inter-caste competition; resource use; territorial exclusion; path of extermination; path of selective incorporation; hunting-gathering; agriculture

Chapter.  6119 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Sociology

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