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Senior Research Seminar: Professor Chris Fuller

When Feb 05, 2016
from 04:15 PM to 06:00 PM
Where Seminar Room, Social Anthropology
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Professor Chris Fuller (London School of Economics)

The Peripheral Position of India in British Anthropology during the Colonial Era

From around 1870 until 1947, the study of India became increasingly peripheral to British anthropology for three main reasons.  First, because anthropology was primarily the study of ‘primitive’ peoples, most Indians were too ‘advanced’ to be included.  Secondly, the study of ‘primitive’ tribes in India became theoretically out-of-date after the rise of modern, functionalist social anthropology.  Thirdly, ‘official anthropologists’ in India became increasingly marginalised as ‘amateurs’ by professional academics in British universities.  India’s peripheral position in British anthropology is reflected in histories of the discipline, which say little about the subcontinent, even when examining anthropology’s connection with colonialism.  Conversely, studies of Indian colonial anthropology rarely refer to its relationship with the discipline in Britain.  This paper discusses the overall development of colonial anthropology in India; the links between official and metropolitan anthropologists, and their efforts to secure government support for their work; the impact of functionalism and especially its focus on fieldwork in Africa in the inter-war years; and the significance of India’s peripherality for understanding the relationship between British anthropology and the Empire.

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