Caste in Thirdspace: Theorizing Caste in Modern India with Edward Soja's Thirdspace

Date of Award

May 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Joanne P. Waghorne


Caste, Hindiuism, India, Soja, spatial theory, Thirdspace

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


In an effort to better understand caste in modern India and to relate the various conflicting theories of caste to each other to create a more holistic picture of the social system, this thesis introduces spatial theorist Edward Soja's Thirdspace to a discussion about caste and caste reform. The goals of this thesis are two-fold: first, to illustrate that taking the spatial aspects of caste seriously opens ways of understanding and talking about this complex social system that account for an array of perspectives and experiences, and second, to prove that Thirdspace provides a particularly useful lens through which to understand changes to caste in modern India. First, this thesis provides an overview of major debates in caste theory and a brief history of caste reform movements. Next, it presents Soja's Thirdspace and argues for its applicability to a discussion of caste. Finally, it applies the principles of Thirdspace to three ethnographic examples of changes to caste in modern India in order to illustrate the neglected spatiality of caste, and to open up new, more integrated methods of approaching and understanding this complex and elusive social system.


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