Accepted Paper:

Anthropological Survey of India: a tryst with Indian anthropology  


Tanuj Kanchan (Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore)

Paper short abstract:

The Anthropological Survey of India generated enough empirical information to show how Indian communities are interlinked with each other across linguistic, religious and geographical lines. This can be used to develop tools for assessing the extent of exclusion and inclusion in Indian society more objectively.

Paper long abstract:

The search for Indian characters in Indian anthropology has had been continuing for decades. Unfortunately there is no common protocol for the search; we do not have a standard measure to determine when an exercise can be called India, or widening the net little wider, South Asian. The Anthropological Survey of India never had decolonization of anthropology on its agenda, works done in post-independence years often followed theoretical models developed in the West to understand ‘social structure’ or to plot ‘culture areas’ in the country. Still studies undertaken by Anthropological Survey of India stood apart from the earlier studies on one count. Earlier ethnographic accounts of the country were attempted for a large region or for the entire country. Works done by Russel, Dalton and Risley can be put in this category. In most of those works the units of study were viewed as disparate entities, interconnectedness between them was often underplayed. The nationwide survey of material culture or of livelihood practices drew attention to the extent of sharing. More recently the ethnographic compendium ‘People of India’ tried to quantify the linkages and decipher the underlying pattern. It is true that the findings have not been generalized and theorized to the extent those could be, but there is enough scope to develop tools for assessing the quality and quantity of sharing. The assessment can shade light on the extent of exclusion and inclusion in different sections of Indian society in objective terms.

Panel P065
Indian social anthropology in South Asian perspective: reflection and retrospection