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Introduction: Between the Field and the Gallery: Exploring Anthropological Knowledge in South Asia

Bhattacharyaa, Arunima; Cháirez-Garza, Jesús; Gould, William


Jesús Cháirez-Garza

William Gould


This special section brings together the work of historians, anthropologists and museologists, exploring how anthropological and sociological knowledge has been produced, consumed and reproduced in India. In particular, the special section is interested in analysing how these academic disciplines consolidated themselves as sciences informing the way a newly independent nation-state was to define its future, present and past in social and cultural terms. Anthropology and sociology were seen as tools to understand the diverse ethnic, religious and cultural background of India. Scholars used these disciplines to define what aspects of society were foreign or indigenous; what cultures, religions and languages were to be preserved; and what aspects of society were to be eliminated or integrated in order to achieve ‘progress’. Thus, anthropology and sociology shaped and continued to shape how we see India as a country and society. To understand how this process took place, the articles forming this special section are organised under three main categories: genealogies, methods and museums. The section on genealogies explores the way the first generation of Indian anthropologists and sociologists simultaneously challenge racial hierarchies coming from Europe while accepting caste and racial differences in India. The ‘methods’ sections looks at the trend of action anthropology in this case through social science approaches to ‘marginal’ citizens, whose cultures were explored as part of a larger citizenship complex stressing modernity, assimilation and secularism. The museum section contextualises a wide variety of national, state and house museums within the post-independence tribal integration policies and explores indigenous critiques that decolonise essentialising narratives of the state and nation.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Mar 24, 2024
Deposit Date Apr 3, 2024
Publicly Available Date Sep 25, 2025
Journal South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies
Print ISSN 0085-6401
Electronic ISSN 1479-0270
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Applied anthropology, caste, decolonisation, Indian anthropology, Indian sociology, modernity, museums
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