This project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, traces the development of anthropology as an academic discipline in India and as an instrument of state formation across the transition to independence, ca. 1900 to 1970. Historians of India and other postcolonial contexts have been increasingly interested in the intellectual bases for state formation and social policy, as unique projects of the Global South. Rather than simply looking at anthropology as an outgrowth of colonial ideas, we will explore the many circulations, networks and movements of ideas, intellectuals and their practices, in forming distinctive academic fields. We see this as a vital means of tracing out the distinctive intellectual and ideological underpinnings of the state idea, independently and autonomously from the West. The project is organised around three groups of inter-connected research questions.
1. Ideologies: What are the intellectual origins of Indian anthropology? In what ways did Indian anthropologists contribute to global networks aspiring towards the reinvention of anthropology as a cosmopolitan, transnational discipline, and how did this contribute to the process of decolonisation in India?
2. Institutions: What was the role of governmental, academic and cultural institutions in the creation of anthropological and sociological knowledge in India? How was the knowledge produced by national and international institutions used by the state to inform policy, especially related to development, welfare and the economy?
3. Anthropological Subjects: Who were the main Indian intellectuals behind the rise of anthropology in India? Who were the major influences, interlocutors and collaborators of the Indian founders of anthropology? Who were the communities under the study of Indian anthropology and what was the relationship of these communities with the researchers?