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Accepted Paper:

Racialization in post-colonial anthropology: The racializing impact of an Indian anthropologist and some notes on the historiography of race for a decolonial anthropology  
Thiago Pinto Barbosa (University of Göttingen)

Paper short abstract:

Irawati Karve (1095-1970), an anthropologist trained in Germany and working in colonial and post-colonial India, adapted racial frameworks and influenced key nationalistic projects. I formulate a methodological and theoretical note on the historiography of race for decolonizing anthropology.

Paper long abstract:

With the goal of contributing to the panel with theoretical and methodological suggestions on the historiography of race in anthropology, my paper examines the racializing knowledge production of Indian anthropologist Irawati Karve (1905-1970). Through STS-informed lenses that shed light both on “race” in knowledge practices and its effects, I analyze Karve’s research trajectory, practices, articulations, and its political implications.

Trained at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Eugenics, and Human Heredity in Berlin, Karve adapted racial frameworks to anthropologically grasp human diversity in India and influenced key debates amidst the country’s decolonization and nation-building. While she racialized Muslims in India, her long work in the region of Maharashtra used anthropometric methods to frame Marathi-speaking castes as a racially distinctive population worthy of the demarcation of their own state. I argue that Karve’s adaptation of such German racial approach—rooted in German coloniality—contributed to the further racialization of difference categories in India as well as to the racialization of nationalistic projects.

I conclude by arguing that we can benefit from defocusing on encyclopedic approaches and from avoiding both heroization and villanization in biographic assessments of anthropology. If we want to put forward a history of race in anthropology that is oriented towards decolonization, I suggest that we examine the production of racial_ized/izing knowledge precisely by exploring the nuances, transnational-colonial entanglements, and tensions in the work of anthropologists in post-colonial spaces. I argue that this step can construct a history of race and coloniality that contributes to advance the decolonization of anthropology.

Panel P155a
Race, Anthropology and (De)coloniality [History of Anthropology Network]
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -