This introductory chapter presents the main themes of the book. The major theme is that of “touch” as it constitutes touchability/untouchability in society. Another somewhat implicit theme is that of dalit literature. This literature is the best-known feature, currently, of Indian and non-Indian understanding of the relationship between caste and modernity. Quite a lot of non-Indian interest comes to caste after encountering dalit literature. Ultimately, this book attempts to understand operations of touching and not touching, initially in themselves, but increasingly in their social operations as they relate to caste. To arrive at an understanding of caste that is different from those already available in the saturated field of caste studies, one has to attempt to think everything differently; and to do that one has to stop depending on material—texts, ideas, analyses—already available.
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