The Bound and the Nonbound: Variations in Social and Cultural Structure in Rural Jaffna, Ceylon

Author: 
David, Kenneth A.
Year: 
1972

     The substantive question of this dissertation is the following: given the different modes of intercaste relationships in rural South Asia, are there also contrary normative codes (i.e., codes for conduct) to which castes engaged in the different modes of interrelation are committed and by means of which they orient their action? The specific case to be used to test my propositions about multiplicity of social and cultural forms is the structure of the caste system in Northern Ceylon. . . . I [argue] in this paper that a nonhierarchical normative code, the mercantile scheme, co-exists with two hierarchical normative codes, the priestly scheme and the aristocratic scheme, as part of the traditional cultural structure of Hindu South Asia. . . . My analysis includes three steps: (1) presentation of normative codes (2) presentation of categories of castes, the categories differing in the mode of intercaste relationship, and (3) correlation of normative code and social category by three classes of data in which castes emphasize (i.e., show commitment to) one or the other normative codes.
     The dissertation first describes three villages in Jaffna peninsula: an agricultural village, a fishing village, and a rural artisan town. Spatial arrangements, mode of relationship and predominant normative scheme [is] described and analyzed in each case. Next, it analyzes as part of the defining features of caste, the mythic content of origin myths of various castes in Jaffna. The castes involved in status-governed relationships project into their origin myths norms of the hierarchic scheme. Also included in this part of the dissertation are various kinds of ranking studies: matrix analyses of transactions, Guttman scalogram analyses of ranking transactions, and other summary matrices and statistics along with an analysis of two castes in different structural positions: the Vellala landowner . . . and the goldsmith.

Advisor(s): 
McKim Marriott (chair), Milton B. Singer, Nur Yalman
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