American news media as well as American textbooks, both college and secondary schools, present India as a unique society because it practices the caste system, which is then described in terms of its presumed traditional characteristics. Americans thus learn to picture the Indian society as extremely static and assume that the caste system still continues in its traditional form. The fact is that even in traditional times, the caste system never existed as it was theoretically supposed to operate. In modern India, the caste system exists, but not as westerners generally conceive of it.

Note on the Author

Abraham V. Thomas is Chairman of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.