Sighted by the Invisible: On the Nature of Caste in Medieval Hindu Law, by Donald Davis


Thursday, February 21, 2019, 5:30pm to 7:30pm


CSWR Conference Room


In spite of the reasonable fatigue for more studies of caste, the present paper examines a debate in medieval India about whether caste (jāti) is empirically observable. Two major commentators in the Dharmaśāstra tradition, Medhātitihi (9 th cent.) and Vijñāneśvara (12 th cent.), both conclude that it is not. Other major authors such as Kumārila and Jayantabhaṭṭa, representing Mīmāṃsā and Nyāya traditions, respectively, claim that caste is visible. The points made on both sides
echo contemporary studies of race, especially the work by Obasogie on how and why blind people understand race in visual terms. The social construction of caste in visual terms, therefore, and the challenge to that view offer something new in our understanding of the ideologies of social stratification in medieval India. At a time when misinformation about the
history of caste practices and ideologies is growing, close readings of the language and ideas around caste in traditional texts are essential to dispel false claims.

SARC welcomes Donald R. Davis, Jr., Professor in the department of Asian Studies at University of Texas at Austin. For more on Prof. Davis' research, please see:

All SARC events are free-admission and open to public, refreshment will also be provided! 


poster_3_v._2.pdf344 KB