Contested Hierarchies: A Collaborative Ethnography of Caste among the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal (Oxford Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology)

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9780198279600: Contested Hierarchies: A Collaborative Ethnography of Caste among the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal (Oxford Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology)
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The urban civilization of the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley provides a paradigm for the study of caste and Hindu kingship. In this book, six anthropologists, in a genuinely collaborative international endeavour, pool their knowledge of the three ancient Newar cities of Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur, and settlements nearby. The social institutions of all the main case groups - priests, patrons, artisans, farmers, and low castes - are given extended consideration, and the study is framed by a historical introduction and a comparative conclusion. In addition, it is well illustrated with fascinating black and white photos which have been specially taken to illustrate aspects of the society under study.

The result is the most complete description and analysis yet of a regional caste system. Located within wider theoretical debates surrounding the nature of caste, the book should appeal not only to students of Hinduism and South Asia, but to all anthropologists and comparative sociologists interested in the interrelations of politics, ritual, kinship, economy, and ideology in complex, pre-industrial societies.

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Review:

The ten papers in this volume approach the Newars through an examination of individual castes ... Along the way many fascinating details of the life of the Kathmandu Valley emerge ... This volume is the most comprehensive ethnographic account of the Newars so far, lent extra richness by the differing perspectives the contributors bring to it. The editors present their arguments for the salience of the Newars in re-assessing the wider debate on caste in the subcontinent with admirable clarity. Students of Nepal, of South Asia and of Hinduism, as much as professional anthropologists, will find this a thoroughly rewarding work. (Asian Affairs)

This volume is the most comprehensive ethnographic account of the Newars so far, lent extra richness by the differing perspectives the contributors bring to it ... Students of Nepal, of South Asia and of Hinduism, as much as professional anthropologists, will find this a thoroughly rewarding work. (Asian Affairs)

Not only provides an innovative study into the role caste plays in the Kathmandu Valley, but also develops a systematic approach for the study of caste in general. The book is a well-rounded and balanced work. (Himalayan Research Bulletin)

From the Back Cover:

The urban civilization of the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley provides a paradigm for the study of caste and Hindu kingship. In this innovative study six anthropologists, in a genuinely collaborative international endeavour, pool their knowledge of the three ancient royal cities of Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur, and the nearby settlements which once formed part of their respective kingdoms. Contested Hierarchies opens with an introduction outlining the historical background and contemporary context of Newar society. In the central chapters of the book the social institutions of all the main caste groups - Hindu and Buddhist priests, patrons, artisans, farmers, and low castes - are given extended consideration. A comparative conclusion, which locates controversies about the Newars within wider theoretical debates over the nature of caste, demonstrates how the fundamental principles underlying all caste systems are particularly clearly exemplified by the Newar case.

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