Louis Dumont


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A French anthropologist, the appearance of whose essay, ‘World Renunciation in Indian Religions’ (1959; English trans. 1960), followed by his monumental study of the Indian caste system, Homo hierarchicus: essai sur le système des castes (1966; English trans. 1970), provided two landmarks in modern Indology. The claims of the latter, in particular, continue to be fiercely debated. Based on extensive fieldwork, Homo hierarchicus demonstrates that the ordering principle, or ideology, underlying caste hierarchy is the religious or ritual opposition of the pure and the impure, giving rise to a nexus of interlocking and complementary group relations. Controversially, he sees this holistic, socially coherent, and inegalitarian caste society as being a necessary complement to Western individualism and the ideology of equality.

Subjects: Hinduism — Social Sciences.

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