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The term pariah is used in German in the sense of outcast or outsider . The word is derived from the Tamil name Paraiyar ( Tamil பறையர் paṟaiyar ) for a lower caste group in the southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala .


According to popular belief, the name of the professional group Paraiyar in Tamil Nadu is derived from an old frame drum , which is called parai in Tamil and Malayalam . The Paraiyar could conversely have been eponymous to the carried them drum. The Paraiyar were responsible for making and playing this drum. The manufacture of drums includes the processing of skins that are pulled from slaughtered animals, which is considered an unclean activity and is solely the job of the "untouchables" and generally of the lower classes of the population. A corresponding generalized expression in North India is Chamar ( Hindi चमार camār ). With Chamar , the term for “shoemaker” - who are also considered impure due to the processing of animal skin - was expanded to include other socially low-ranking and marginalized people. In Kannada is the appropriate group Holeya and Telugu Malavadu .

Other names for excluded groups of the population are Harijan , an euphemistic description introduced by Mahatma Gandhi ("child [he of the god] Vishnu "), and Dalit , today the common name for groups outside the caste system .

The English term pariah was expanded to include all of India over time. Pariah is also used as a term for casteless people. They are socially avoided and are the ones who do what is considered to be unclean work, including work that comes into contact with blood. The pariah can include, for example, midwives , butchers, street sweepers or washers. Exclusion and discrimination continue to this day in certain parts of India.


A similar social phenomenon exists in Japan , as a minority of the Japanese population are descendants of a minority known as Burakumin ("residents of the special community"). In the German-speaking world, this social problem is often referred to as the Japanese "pariah caste".

Pariah as a political and sociological term

The word “pariah” has been known in European languages ​​since the 17th century. Goethe published his Pariah trilogy in 1823 . Max Weber , who introduced “pariah” as a general sociological term for outcasts at the beginning of the 20th century, describes the Jews as a “pariah people” in several places in his work, The Business Ethics of World Religions :

“The peculiar religious-historical-sociological problem of Judaism can be best understood by comparing it with the Indian caste system. For what were, sociologically speaking, the Jews? A Paria people. "

- Max Weber

Hannah Arendt takes up the term and uses it in a similar way to the journalist Bernard Lazare before her . In view of the anti-Semitic Dreyfus affair , Lazare wanted to lead the Jewish pariah into a political struggle against society and the Jewish parvenu .

According to Arendt, the Jewish people are a Paria people. The Jews lived before the 20th century outside the company , were not integrated. In the 19th and 20th centuries , almost all Jews in western Europe assimilated , but were still not recognized by society as equals. According to Arendt, the pariah is a person who is made an outsider because of his otherness and is despised by society. The pariah as a parvenu unconsciously denies his otherness in order to be recognized by the ruling society.

Arendt further distinguishes between two forms of pariah - the revolutionary and the Schnorrer, who also stands outside the ruling society .

"In both forms, as a revolutionary in the society of others and as a scrounger in his own, living from the crumbs and ideals of the benefactors, the pariah remains attached to the parvenu, protecting him and under his protection."

- Hannah Arendt

The conscious pariah would really stand outside society and could get better insights into it through his distance. Hannah Arendt names Franz Kafka , Rahel Varnhagen , Charlie Chaplin as an example and Heinrich Heine as a successful figure in European assimilation . She wrote about Varnhagen in her habilitation thesis Rahel Varnhagen. Life story of a Jewish woman in Romanticism that she “remained a Jew and a pariah” and only found her “place in the history of European humanity” because she stuck to both.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Paria  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  • Antonia Grunenberg: The figure of the pariah between bohemian and politics. Reflections on an underestimated figure of thought in Arendt's thinking . In: Thinking without a railing. Hannah Arendt on her 100th birthday (=  Polis series ). tape 47 . Hessian State Center for Political Education HLZ, Wiesbaden 2007, ISBN 3-927127-74-4 .
  • Jan Eike Dunkhase: Pariavolk . In: Dan Diner (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Jewish History and Culture (EJGK) . tape 4 . Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2013, ISBN 978-3-476-02500-5 , p. 496-500 .
Pariah in India


  1. ^ Gustav Salomon Oppert : On the original inhabitants of Bharatavarsa or India. Archibald Constable & Co., Westminster 1893, p. 31 ( at Internet Archive )
  2. Horst Brinkhaus: "Untouchables" in the Hindu Kingdom of Nepal. In: Anja Pistor-Hatam , Antje Richter (ed.): Beggar, Prostitute, Paria. Marginal groups in Asian societies (= Asia and Africa. Contributions from the Center for Asian and African Studies [ZAAS] at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel. Volume 12). EB-Verlag, Hamburg 2008, p. 15 f.
  3. Max Weber: The business ethics of the world religions . Mohr Siebeck, 2008, ISBN 978-3-16-149084-2 .
  4. Hannah Arendt: The hidden tradition. Eight essays . Suhrkamp, ​​Ffm. 2000, ISBN 3-633-54163-2 , pp. 46-73 , cit. P. 58 (first edition: 1976).
  5. also representation of the motif by authors other than Arendt