Indian Sociologists

Indian Sociologists


How did Ananthakrishna Iyer and Sarat Chandra Roy come to practise social anthropology ?

How did Ananthakrishna Iyer and Sarat Chandra Roy come to practise social anthropology ?I. Practice of social anthropology by Ananthakrishna Iyer : (i) One of the earliest and the best known pioneers of social anthrology in India is L.K. Ananthakrishna Iyer (1861-1937) (ii) In 1902, he was asked by the Dewan of Cochin to assist with an ethnographic survey of the state. The British government wanted similar surveys done in all the princely states as well as the presidency areas directly under its control. Ananthakrishna Iyer did this work on a purely voluntary basis, working as a college teacher in the Maharaja's College at Ernakularn during and functioning as the united superintendent of Ethnography in the weekends.

3. His work was much appreciated by British anthropologists and administrators of the time, and later he was also invited to help with a similar ethnographic survey of Mysore state.

4. L.K. Ananthakrishna Iryer was probably the first self-taught anthropologist to receive national and international recognition as scholar and an academician.

5. Ananthakrishan Iyer was invited to lecture at the University of Madaras, and was appointed as reader of the University of Calcutta, where he helped set up the first post-graduate anthropology department in India.

6. Anathakrishna remained at Universtiy of Calcutta from 1917 to 1932.

7. Though he had no formal qualifications in anthropology, he was elected president of the Ethnology section of the Indian Science Congress. He was awarded a honorary doctorate by a German university during his lecture tour of European universities. He was also conferred the titles of Rai Bahadur and Dewan Bahadur by Cochin state.

II. Practice of social anthropology by Sarat Chandra Roy : 1. The lawyer Sarat Chandra Roy (1871-1942) was another ‘accidental anthropologist’ and pioneer of the discipline in India.

(ii) Before taking his law degree in Calcutta's Ripon College, Roy had done graduate and post graduate degrees in English. Soon after he had begun practising law, he decided to go to Ranchi (now a capital town of Jharkhanda) in 1898 to take up a job as a English teacher at a Christian Missionery school. This decision was to change his life, for he remained in Ranchi for the next forty-four years and became the leading authority on the culture and society of the tribal people of the Chhotanagpur region (present day Jharkhand).

(iii) Sarat Chandra Roy became deeply interested in tribal society as a byproduct of his professional need to interpret tribal customs and laws to the court. He travelled extensively among tribal communities and did intensive fieldwork among them. All of this was done on an ‘amateur’ basis, but Roy's diligence and keen eye for detail resulted in valuable monographs and research articles.

(iv) Literary work : During his entire career, Roy published more than one hundred articles in leading Indian and British academic journals in addition to his famous monographs on the Oraon, the Mundas and the Kharias. Roy soon became very well-known amongst anthropologist in India and Britain and was recognised as an authority on Chhotanagpur. He founded the journal man in India in 1922, the earliest journal of its kind in India that is still published.

(v) Conclusion : (a) Both Ananthakrishna Iyer and Sarat Chandra Roy were true pioneers. In the early 1900s, they began practising a discipline that did not yet exist in India, and which had no institutions to promote it. Both Iyer and Roy were born, lived and died in India that was ruled by the British.

(b) The four Indian sociologists you are going to be introduced in this chapter were born one generation later than colonial era, but their careers continued into the era of independence, and they helped to shape the first formal institutions that established Indian sociology.

(c) G.S. Ghurye and D.P. Mukerji were born in the 1890s while A.R. Desai and M.N. Srinivas were about fifteen years younger, having been born in the second decade of the 20th century. Although they were all deeply influenced by western traditions of sociology, they were also able to offer some initial answers to the question that the pioneers could only begin to ask: what shape should a specially Indian sociology take ?

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