86 pages 2 hours read

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2020

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Part 3, Preface-Pillar 2

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 3: “The Eight Pillars of Caste”

Part 3, Preface Summary: “The Foundations of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents”

Wilkerson notes that the foundations of caste in any country do not have to rest on truth or objectivity; what matters is that “people accepted them and gained a sense of order and means of justification for the cruelties to which they had grown accustomed, inequalities that they took to be the laws of nature” (99). These pillars do not know national boundaries. Instead, Wilkerson notes “These are the principles upon which a caste system is constructed, whether in America, India, or Nazi Germany,” and they are essential “in order for a caste system to function” (99).

Part 3, Pillar 1 Summary: “Divine Will and the Laws of Nature”

Wilkerson describes the religious and natural arguments individuals make for a caste system. She describes how the divine texts of Hinduism set the Brahmins above other castes, while the Dalits were not even mentioned as “their very shadow was a pollutant” (102). Wilkerson then turns to the story from the Bible’s book of Genesis about Noah and his sons. Because one son, Ham, viewed Noah’s naked body while he was in a drunken stupor, Noah cursed Ham and his descendants. These descendants were said to have spread out in the world to the south, and Europeans argued that Africans were among them.

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