As I was working on the last chapter of The Grammar of Caste: Economic Discrimination in Contemporary India (2011) which deals with affirmative action (AA), it was clear to me that the chapter should have appropriately been a book. In order to keep the length of that chapter in sync with the rest of the book, I focused on a few new studies, rather than making a futile attempt to be comprehensive in that short space. Also, after Marc Galanter's comprehensive, balanced, and nuanced study of India's caste-based affirmative action programme, Competing Equalities (1984), not too many studies can hope to surpass that level of detail and expert knowledge, and effortlessly straddle the worlds of social science and law. I agreed to Oxford University Press' offer to write this short introduction for two reasons. One, given that I wanted to elaborate further on the question of affirmative action, this was the perfect opportunity, coming as it did on the heels of Grammar. Two, the Oxford India Short Introduction series has a clear mandate in terms of a short and focused exposition of a given subject, so there is no compulsion for me to match the depth and breadth of other important scholarly works on the topic, of which there are plenty in circulation, in addition to Galanter's excellent work. This is aimed at a general audience, not only those with a background in social science, and it provides the rationale, details, and an assessment of the AA programme in India. It summarizes the important results of the vast body of research on this subject and provides leads for further reading to those interested in pursuing specific aspects of the issue.
I would like to thank Thomas E. Weisskopf, Dean Spears, Bhaskar Dutta, and an anonymous referee from OUP for useful comments on an earlier draft, while taking full responsibility for all remaining gaps. Since these issues are part of my ongoing research, I hope to be able to address the remaining lacunae in my subsequent work.
[A] Clear, compact, and engaging account of the accomplishments and deficiencies of India's affirmative action policies... Ashwini Deshpande provides an incisive assessment of the implementation of these policies that punctures many of the myths that cluster around them.
-Marc Galanter, University of Wisconsin-Madison
[Deshpande has a rare ability to write in terms that are clear and accessible to the general public. By addressing affirmative action in India in its historical, political, social and economic contexts, this volume will provide readers with a thorough and indispensably multifaceted understanding of the subject.
-Thomas E. Weisskopf,
University of Michigan
ASHWINI DESHPANDE December 2012
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