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Indigenisation of sociological studies

How do people who have imbibed ideas and concepts from their study of sociology and social anthropology, subjects that do not have an intrinsically Indian origin, relate to the living traditions of India' How do scholars of our country, who are all inheritors of India’s legacy, articulate this special position without sacrificing their training in social science'

These were some questions raised by Prof Surrendra Munshi of IIM-C at the launch of the Oxford India Companion to Sociology and Social Anthropology last Thursday evening at Oxford Bookstore. Mahasveta Devi, writer, launched the book in two volumes, edited by Veena Das.

Characteristically, Mahasveta Devi exhorted scholars to “Go to the people and learn from them.” She asserted that common Indians know so much about tolerance that few were swayed by the example of Gujarat.

Discussing the book hailed by scholars both in India and abroad as the “most comprehensive and up-to-date survey of Indian sociology in recent times,” Prof Munshi said though the importance of caste has decreased in personal terms its importance has increased in political terms. He also exposed the myth of the fecundity of the minority community. The concept of public culture being equivalent to everyday practices of ordinary people as opposed to public events was broached. That social movements are rooted in “experiences of difference.”

While praising the book, Munshi said its “major weakness” was that it had “not taken forward” to show ways of overcoming the major concerns discussed. Issues and problems were highlighted but the book has not gone much further.

Munshi concluded the discussion saying while it was true that traditions were being eroded, one could take the pessimistic view that it was being perverted. On the other hand, if one took the historical perspective, this 5000-year-old culture cannot be easily destroyed.

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