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Caste And Social Mobility

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Chapter Summary

One of the important aspects of the social history of the western maritime region of Sri Lanka in the early nineteenth century was the growing antagonism between caste groups. The backdrop to this tension was the questioning of the superior ritual status of the Goyigama caste by some caste groups that had hitherto been assigned lower ritual status. This chapter examines the mid- and lateeighteenth- century antecedents of these developments. It identifies several factors that gave the caste formation its dynamic character. First, the ?hierarchy?, perhaps the defining factor of the caste system, was not monolithic. Various social agents articulated the hierarchical ordering of castes in different ways. Secondly, the ways in which each caste group was attached to the production process and to the economy in general varied. Thirdly, there were interesting differences in the demographic structure of each caste.

Keywords: caste formation; social history; Sri Lanka; western maritime region



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