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At a time in our own history, when those responsible for governing this country have divided the world into those who are with us and those who are not, into friend or foe, the stage has been all too perfectly set for a virulent campaign of demonizing the “other” that now is well under way. It is a campaign that is now greatly amplified by our preemptive war against Iraq. Although the planning for this special issue on Pariah Minorities preceded many of these alarming developments, its relevance to the historical moment has sadly been enhanced by them. While I did not initiate this issue with a precise definition of what it means to be a pariah group, I believe such a group probably has some if not all of the following characteristics: it is an ethnic or racial group that shares a language and a culture; its members are the objects of persecution and viewed by the dominant population as less than fully human, as dirty, as inferior, or are deemed impure; it is marginalized by those in power and considered to stand below (outside) the law. Since it is probably the case that pariah minorities have existed in almost all societies, I wanted the papers in the issue to examine not only why a particular group is or was considered a pariah and how it became so, but what role this designation played or plays within the society and, in cases where the situation has changed, what accounted for the change. These questions are addressed by many of the papers in this issue, which look at a variety of groups—the Roma, the Dalit and Hijra in India, Blacks in America, and Jews. Some continue to be viewed as pariahs, while others no longer are. Taken together, these papers succeed in deepening our understanding of the concept and how it is has been historically embodied. Arien Mack Editor Editor’s Introduction ...


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