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Paper 37

Caste No Bar: The Irony of Matrimonial Advertisements

Ms Anjori Mukherjee & Shambhobi Bagchi

Undergraduate Students, Department of Sociology, Presidency University, Kolkata, West Bengal, India


“Suitable match for well settled

Bengali Brahmin, 37/6’educated

in England and USA running

established family business

in Mumbai. Parents are well

educated professionals.

Need 5’3’’ and above, attractive,

educated, professional girl from

established family. Caste no bar.”

Advertisements like these mushroom every weekend, in the pages designated for matchmaking. This particular excerpt is from The Telegraph, Kolkata published on 24th April 2022. It reveals a complex dimension of caste and casteism in India. Though the first line declares the particular positioning of the groom in the caste hierarchy, the last sentence apparently renounces any possible casteist connotations. An analogous anonymity can be observed in the general understanding of caste in India. This paper aims to read between the lines of similar advertisements. Bourdieu’s concepts of symbolic violence is borrowed, in an attempt to unmask the violence associated with these caste declarations. Further, the theory of structuration provided by Anthony Giddens is used. The central argument of the paper addresses the duality of structures and agents, which enables the reproduction of the caste system in society. While the initial declaration of their caste is considered symbolic violence, the amendment in the latter part cannot be called off. Reproduction of the structure and the agency is hence revisited through the demarcations of caste in the space of matrimonial advertisement in local editions of the local newspaper edition, which are widely circulated throughout the state of West Bengal. There is an anticipated difference in the assertion of ‘caste no bar’ and realistically performing the obliteration of caste from marriage. Perception of the invisibilization of caste, in Bengal, in the regional newspapers will be employed to study the theories of Bourdieu and Giddens. Tales of violence pertaining to false advertisements and displaced expectations out of those advertisements will be looked into. The paper draws its primary materials from the matrimonial advertisement section and the publication of caste violence in a similar context of advertisements. Both the lack of caste dimensions in the reporting or the complete absence of mention of the caste factors of such violence will be analysed, across The Telegraph and The Times of India, Kolkata edition. Interviews with the publishers shall provide a further understanding of the Freudian unconscious thoughts. Hence, the paper ‘Caste No Bar: The irony of matrimonial advertisements’ aims to decode the complex reality of casteism in the shared column of ‘Groom/Bride wanted’ in two such local newspapers.

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