ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Towards a New Direction of Disciplinary Histories and Practices

Sociology and Social Anthropology in South Asia: Histories and Practices edited by Ravi Kumar, Dev Nath Pathak and Sasanka Perera, New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan, 2018; pp 336, `1,075.

Sociology and Social Anthropology in South Asia: Histories and Practices is a vibrant collection of essays venturing to ask the difficult and uncomfortable questions of our practice as socio­logists and social anthropologists and our troubles in reimagining the discipline to forge local connections and seek global relevance. The volume dips into the concerns of epistemic silences, conceptual erasures, the general crisis in theories and methods and the philosophical anchoring of the discipline of sociology and social anthropology in the South Asian region. What are the defining categories of socio­logy in India? How do we write and represent what we experience through fieldwork? How is the experience of fieldwork grounded in concepts and cate­gories? How do we remain relevant to our students, chosen fields, and discipline? Some of these questions were articulated in the edited book Towards a New Socio­logy in India (Bandyopadhyay and Hebbar 2016). These questions resonate here with a broader focus on South Asia as the volume articulates what a project of South Asian solidarities and a focus on the region might look like for the disciplines of sociology and social anthropology. 

The book interrogates the “dominant–subordinate epistemic frameworks” and disciplinary matrices, relevance and applicability of knowledge, the transcendence of crises in disciplines, and mimicry of the West concerning sociology and social anthropology. One of the continuing concerns and criticisms of sociology and social anthropology in India has revolved around the imitation of the West in terms of theories, methods and concepts of doing sociology. Such uncritical acceptance of Western categories and methods in studying Indian society (Bandyopadhyay and Hebbar 2016) emerges from the cultural distance between modern intellectuals (sociologists included) and ordinary people, and the pervasive xenophilia among the Westernised elites and their apathy towards social realities of the ordinary South Asian. In grappling with such mimi­cry of the West, the authors build a case for studying South Asia—not through simply unifying categories of thought and experience—but through ideas and concepts that emerge from interrogating social structures, practices, and identities across the region. Making full and productive use of a comparative perspective and recognising the larger geopolitical context and forces would enable such productive dialogues, sans their slippage into unilinear power matrices. The volume presents a group of scholars questioning the status of “insiders” and reflecting on any accompanying claims of being “enlightened.”

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Updated On : 24th Apr, 2022
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