Limited Social base of Indian Sociology

In the current issue of the EPW, Surinder S Jodhka has an exhaustive review of the book Anthropology in the East: Founders of Indian Sociology and Anthropology. He critically points out that the social base of the early Indian sociologists was rather limited (made up almost exclusively of Brahmin men) and correlates this with the concerns of Indian sociological studies.

My only (minor) crib with the review and possibly with the book is that there is no mention of Radhakamal Mukherji who pioneered the teaching of sociology in the 1930s at  Lucknow University, though the contributions of his colleague D.P. Mukherji are well recounted.

Incidentally, Surinder,  an old friend and now a prof at JNU, has earlier guest blogged here. Following is an excerpt from the review.

However, these life histories of pioneers also tell us about the larger social contexts in which sociology/social anthropology, and perhaps, other social sciences began to be practised in India during the colonial period, the kind of people who came to occupy positions in the university system and the kind of knowledge they produced about Indian society. With the exception of two “foreigners”, all the Indian scholars were upper caste Hindus. With the exception of one upper caste brahmin woman, they were all men.

How come we did not have a Muslim or Christian sociologist or social anthropologist, nor a dalit or a tribal? Is it a mere accident or a reflection of something more? Why is it that sociologists and social  anthropologists have remained preoccupied with the study of their own society, the Indian Hindu society, the caste system, family and the village, and at the macro level, the challenges of nation building?

The idea of Indian society, as it has been articulated by “mainstream sociology” of India also needs to be understood in this social context of sociology. It was not only Ghurye who saw Indian society to be essentially a Hindu society. Similarly, despite being a major preoccupation with sociologists and social anthropology, we have very little written on the oppressive and dehumanising aspects of caste system.

Likewise, studies of tribal communities also in most cases remain descriptive in nature. Islam has always been a major faith tradition in south Asia. How come we see very little engagement with Islamic traditions as being part of the civilisational values of Indian society? Why, until some time back, no serious attempts were made at studying the Muslims communities of India and their social structure?


Author: bhupinder singh

an occasional blogger

3 thoughts on “Limited Social base of Indian Sociology”

  1. I expected a bit of more words on this article of S.S. Jodhka. I am not a sociologist by training but for some years, I have focussed on the rupture between the individual and social (in the broader terms whatever of caste, religion, gender or nationality etc). This rupture is both inside history and outside history. Those who seem to govern the category of “social” are not that complete and monolithic hegemons. They are breaking apart or in some cases, they have broken apart.The event horizon of this rupture is marked by intense debates between the possessive individualism and social configuration of the reality. The possible results out of this phenomena can be traced in any direction which may be politically correct or incorrect, morally correct or incorrect, deeply divisive or united. What you say about Indian Sociology, I don’t disagree but I feel that it is bypassing the domain of experientality and the context upon which social action is based. You may read into my mind by having a look at my articles “Thinking Ecologically than thinking of ecology” or “resituating the context of death”.

  2. Oh oh Brahmins here and brahmine everywhere. Why don’t we take a cue from Tamil Nadu and ban them in all sectors into oblivion. Jai Bhim

  3. The question is not of banning the Brahmins or anyone else. The point made in the review is that the social origin of Indian sociologists also impacted the studies that were carried out and hence were limited in their nature.

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