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Tribal nation: Politics and the making of anthropology in India, 1874-1967

Tribal nation: Politics and the making of anthropology in India, 1874-1967


Department of Anthropology, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.


Until the 1940s, anthropology in India focused almost exclusively on the study of tribal communities. In the colonial era, anthropology's development as a modern social science was entangled in the military pacification of India's tribal frontier. This dissertation chronicles the transformation of anthropology from a military techno-science to a post-Independence academic field. In the process, it examines the sometimes agonistic relationship between anthropology's disciplinary development and tribal struggles for land, autonomy, and legal recognition. The first part of the dissertation examines how anthropology, as a new science for the study of primitivity, was deployed in frontier zones of a new colonial polity to juridically separate tribal communities from neighboring Muslims and caste-Hindus. This process culminated in the passage of the Scheduled Districts Act of 1874. It further examines the significance of policies of territorial segregation for the development of later nationalist social science in India. The second part of the dissertation analyzes the scholarship of S. C. Roy, G. S. Ghurye, Verrier Elwin, and N. K. Bose, re-examining their scholarly and political legacies in order to show how issues of tribal governance were central to the making of anthropology as a modern social science.