Caste out of Development: Project Abstract

Caste is peripheral to official (state and donor) frameworks for the analysis of poverty and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in South Asia, and yet caste is evermore central to the assertion of rights to development resources by marginal groups themselves. Given growing wealth and aspirations in India, the inequality of opportunity, persistent poverty, unemployment, ill-health or low education levels are interpreted by such groups as caste discrimination.

This programme of research focuses on organisations, movements and campaigns that insist on the continuing relevance of caste to poverty, and that assert the rights of caste-excluded Dalits. It examines the conjunction of  international rights-based approaches to development and regional ethno-politics. It focuses on civil society actors – churches, development NGOs, women’s organisations and international Dalit human rights campaigns – that have produced this conjunction, particularly from south India (Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka) where pervasive caste discrimination persists.

The research uses institutional/network ethnography to examine the ‘dalitisation’ of social policy, and village-level study to discover the social consequences of promoting the politics of poverty as the politics of identity, the influence on access to resources, and the risks of entrapment in subordinated identities or of caste conflict and violence.


Research Coordinator of the “Caste Out of Development” project is Professor David Mosse: dm21 [at]


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