Untouchable politics and politicians since 1956
This article from the book
The Untouchables, who number some 150 million, are among the most subordinated and poorest people in India. In a sensitive and compelling account of the lives of those at the very bottom of Indian society, Oliver Mendelsohn and Marika Vicziany explore the construction of the Untouchables as a social and political category, the historical background which led to such a definition and their position in Indian society today. The authors argue that despite efforts to ameliorate their condition on the part of the state, and on the part of the new generation of polit-ical leaders who represent them, a considerable edifice of dis-crimination persists on the basis of a tradition of ritual subordi-nation. Even now, therefore, at the end of the twentieth century, it still makes sense to categorise these people as 'Untouchables'.
As the most comprehensive account available of the phenome-non of Untouchability, this book promises to make a major con-tribution to the literature, and in particular to the current social and economic debates on poverty within the global context, Its wide-ranging perspectives will ensure an interdisciplinary reader-ship from historians of South Asia to students of politics and economics, religion and sociology.
OLIVER MENDELSOHN is Associate Professor at the School of Law and Legal Studies, La Trobe University. His publications include The Rights of Subordinated Peoples (with Upendra Baxi, 1994).
MARIKA VICZIANY is Associate Professor in the Department of Economics, Monash University, and Director of the National Centre for South Asian Studies, Melbourne.