Is Indian Sociology Dominated by the Upper Castes?

The Discussion Map charts important debates from the pages of E​PW.

 

What does “doing sociology” in India today entail? 

In 2016, Sujata Patel wrote that post-independence, nationhood and the project of knowledge creation were closely related. The Indian elite governed the country, and sociologists in India—largely upper-caste, elite males—supported the idea of setting up higher education as a nationalist project. Upper-caste practices became the norm for the state’s rulers, and within the first few decades after independence, the need for recognition of the marginalised had virtually disappeared. 

In another article, Rajen Harshe and Sujata Patel argued that the post-independence Nehruvian phase of nation-building had no mechanism to ensure that scholarship developed by accepting differences and tolerance between communities. Further, English, and not the regional languages was used for teaching, research, and publication, and academic institutions were centralised in Delhi and not in other cities across the country. 

Is the case any different today? 

A debate in the EPW further explores the question of knowledge production. Vivek Kumar, in his 2016 article “How Egalitarian Is Indian Sociology?” argues that Indian sociology today is biased. Kumar contends that the discipline is dominated by upper castes, and the subject matter currently taught reflects only a partial reality of Indian society.  K L Sharma responds to Kumar, saying that Kumar’s view of Indian sociologists is prejudiced and that by questioning the integrity of Indian scholars, Kumar only trivialises the debate. Kumar, in response, says that Sharma has indulged in personal criticism rather than debating the article, and has subsequently failed to address the issue of upper-caste domination of Indian sociology.   

A few other works that are broadly related to this discussion:

  1. Sociological Studies in India, M N Srinivas, 1966
  2.  Sociology and Common Sense, Andre Beteille, 1996
  3.  The Challenge of Doing Sociology Today, Sujata Patel, 2016

Ed: To contribute to a more comprehensive discussion map, please share links to other relevant articles in the comments section or write to us at edit@epw.in with the subject line—“Sociology and Its Pedagogy.”

Curated by Kieran Lobo [kieran@epw.in]

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