If caste is a state of mind, it is also a structuring of the environment. This article proposes a new framework for analyzing the tenacious persistence of caste and untouchability in the present, a framework anchored in particular histories of housing and infrastructure in colonial and postcolonial Lucknow and Benares but attentive as well to spatial patterns in the historical longue durée across the subcontinent. Caste operates as a spatial-sensory order. Spatial practices inscribe the premises of caste ideology into the built environment, producing particular configurations and concentrations of sensuous materiality. In particular, spatial arrangements of rural labor and urban sanitation infrastructure disproportionately funnel waste matter and its chemical and olfactory concomitants toward Dalit communities. This can be theorized as environmental casteism. The resulting sensuous landscape then operates as a pedagogy of place, silently communicating to both victims and beneficiaries of environmental casteism their “place” in the world.
Joel Lee; Odor and Order: How Caste Is Inscribed in Space and Sensoria. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 December 2017; 37 (3): 470–490. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201x-4279188
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