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Caste Identity and Cultural Continuity Among Tamil Plantation Workers in Sri Lanka1

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The paper focus on factors related to migration and recruitment under the Kangani system, the Estate Tamils' social organisation, their position as an ethnic minority and their social and geographical isolation from the greater society, in order to explain how Tamil estate workers managed to maintain their cultural identity, despite their position as lowpaid labourers (coolies) in the plantations. The caste differentiations, which derive from their social organisation, determine social life in many 'off-work' contexts and are manifest in religious festivals and rituals. Caste is still important in regulating marriages, some traditional caste-oriented occupations, commensality and upward mobility into trade. However, caste identity is not the only identity which regulate Estate Tamils' social life in various contexts, but competing with those identities based on class, occupational status and ethnicity as well.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen, 5007 Bergen, Norway


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