1. (noun) A stratified system of categorization based on a status conferred at birth (ascribed status) due to an person’s descent in which individuals do not have mobility due to custom or law.

Example: Jāti in India.

2. (noun) A group and the individual members of a group within a caste.

Example: The Dalits, part of the untouchables in the Jāti caste system of India.

Audio Pronunciation: (caste)

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Usage Notes:

  • Plural: castes
  • A form of social stratification that is reinforced by endogamy, occupation, and ritualized norms.
  • In comparison to caste, class is another stratified system but one that permits individual mobility.
  • Also called caste system.

Related Quotations:

  • “Where ethnic groups are racially defined, relations among them tend toward caste. Endogamy within castes is strictly enforced, and interaction between them in intimate social settings such as peer groups, clubs, neighborhoods, and so on are minimized. Subordinate castes are usually exploited occupationally by the dominant group and experience little or no change in their collective social position” (Marger 1985:37).

Additional Information:

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Marger, Martin. 1985. Race and Ethnic Relations: American and Global Perspectives. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.