Pattern Shift in Occupational Structure and Linguistic Identity of Paraya Community in South India

Authors: Sam Robert, Darwin L (University of Kerala, India)
Speakers: Sam Robert, Darwin L
Strand: Anthropological Linguistics
Session Type: General Session


The institution of caste system in Indian was originally evolved and perfected to form the country’s social, political, and economic structure. Unlike categorisation of scheduled tribes, the occupational identity was one of the factors for the classification of the scheduled castes in India. Among the Indian states, Kerala is familiar with the caste variety and social complexity. A large number of SC communities in the state have a significant role in making this social diversity ostensible. According to the amendment to the constitution in 2006, there are around 53 SC communities in Kerala with a population of 30,39,573 persons as per the 2011 population census constituting 9.10 per cent of the total population of the State. However, the communities tend to shift from their traditional occupations due to various socio-economic reasons. The present study describes the aspects of occupational shift and its inevitable consequences in the Paraya (Sambava) community in Kerala by looking into the matter with a linguistic interest, especially on the obsolete lexical items and the knowledge system pertaining to them. This study is carried out by employing a community observation method. It is observed that the community does not maintain their occupational identity as bamboo labourers and which causes them to lose their indigenous knowledge and social identity. The study has found that only a few elders in the community know the process, practice, and techniques of bamboo handicraft and their usage. Hence, indicates the inevitability of the documentation of the things that are at the brim of extinction. And it also reminds the need for devising a balanced system that may preserve the indigenous knowledge of the communities along with the socio-economic developments appropriate for modern societies. Finally, it is to be noted that the study implies a better way to identify the pattern change and identity crisis based on the linguistic properties and attrition of indigenous knowledge.

Keywords: Occupational shift, linguistic identity, Paraya community, Indigenous knowledge