12 August 2021
Professor David Mosse has won the 2021 Jack Goody Award for his manuscript, “Outside Caste? The Enclosure of Caste and Claims to Castelessness in India and the United Kingdom”.
The panel of judges praised the essay saying:
"David Mosse’s “Outside Caste? The Enclosure of Caste and Claims to Castelessness in India and the United Kingdom,” is a brilliant comparative study evenly grounded in ethnographic and historical analysis. The author addresses a classic problem in social policy that arises whenever policies directed against social oppression clash with respect for cultural autonomy. The careful discussion of the way in which caste is enclosed in notions of religion and nation makes it possible to dismiss critiques based on justice and equality, and illustrates how religion, and more importantly cultural difference, cannot easily be squared with liberal egalitarian notions. Mosse shows the way Hindu élites have dismissed global critiques of the prejudices directed toward Dalits on the grounds that those critiques emanate from an orientalized concept of “caste” that has been imposed on India as an element of imperial epistemological colonization. The analytical twist that Mosse brings to light so powerfully is the real-time contradiction Hindu élites get away with; both embedding caste into Hindu religion and nation and arguing at the same time that it was a result of a colonial description of the other. Close and deep reading reveals hidden gems of ethnographic analysis and a breathtaking sensitivity to the importance of historical details. The author gracefully moves between his empirical narrative and the larger analytical argument, contributing to both the questions of the role of “caste” in society and questions of social policy vis-à-vis cultural difference."
David Mosse is Professor of Social Anthropology at SOAS University of London. His research ranges across the anthropology of religion, the environment, international development, and mental healthcare. He is author of The Saint in the Banyan Tree: Christianity and Caste Society in India (University of California Press, 2012); Cultivating Development: An Ethnography of Aid Policy and Practice (Pluto Press, 2005) ; and The Rule of Water: Statecraft, Ecology and Collective Action in South India (Oxford University Press, 2003). He recently undertook a collaborative research project, “Caste out of Development,” concerned with civil society activism and transnational advocacy for Dalit rights and development. He is currently engaged in anthropological research on psychiatric crisis care and mental health.