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Caste, race, and hierarchy in the American South

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Deep South (1941) is an ethnography of racial caste and class in Natchez, Mississippi, in the 1930s. This classic of functionalist social anthropology is particularly interesting because it describes a deeply divided and unequal modern society. In the American South, the population was divided into two endogamous 'castes' and segregation ensured their almost complete social separation, with whites dominant over blacks. Each racial group was also divided by class, so that Natchez society was based on an elaborate caste-class hierarchy, whose characteristics are subtly explored in Deep South. None the less, although the caste concept was used by other American writers, most later social scientists preferred 'ethnic group' or 'race' itself. Caste in India has been compared with American racial caste, but anthropologists of India have scarcely exploited the insights to be derived from Deep South and similar studies. For understanding the institutions and values of hierarchy, Deep South remains invaluable.

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