Sociology of India, Sociology in India, Indian Sociology1

By Mucha, Janusz | Polish Sociological Review, April 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Sociology of India, Sociology in India, Indian Sociology1

Mucha, Janusz, Polish Sociological Review

Abstract: As a scholarly discipline, Indian sociology draws upon British and American social anthropology and sociology but analyses and interprets a completely different than Western type of culture and social structure. Colonial past and post-colonial development remain very significant points of reference of Indian social sciences. Polish scholars are also interested in Indian social structure and culture.

Keywords: "colonial" social anthropology and sociology, sociology in sovereign India, Indian Sociological Society, main topics of Indian sociology.

Indian natural and social scientists play an increasingly significant role in the field of research and education. Bearing in mind the traditional Western visions of the world, we must be aware of the global transformations. It is true that modern universities emerged as the Western-style research and education institutions; science, in the contemporary sense of the term, is a relatively recent enterprise originating in the Western world; sociology and social anthropology (the latter is very relevant here) emerged in Western Europe. All the universities, modern science and sociology and social anthropology, under the influence of colonialism, imperialism and globalization, have since expanded and become a significant part of the global culture. Not only are economic and political processes and institutions constantly shifting, but also cultural and scholarly centers. What was believed to belong to the peripheries and/or semi-peripheries is no longer at the "margins." Moreover, with the increase in domestic and international migrations, many people raised and educated in one culture, work (not necessarily permanently) in another and thus contribute to the "universal" culture. The "margins" have ceased to be only the mines of interesting (sometimes "exotic") empirical data elaborated by social scientists in the metropolitan areas. The interest in the non- Western, non-metropolitan social sciences and their achievements seems to be growing in today's sociological community (see, e.g., Connell 2007; Burawoy et al., [eds.] 2010; Patel [ed.] 2010). Our engagement is not only with the Western style "sociology of India," but also with "sociology as such" being developed in India and with the attempts to build "Indian sociology," in the sense of systematic research of structural and cultural issues based on conceptual models of society closer to Indian than to Western experiences and philosophies, based on India's own, indigenous perspectives (see, e.g., Mukharjee 1989; Modi 2010; Patel 2010). Sociology2 as practiced in India is very important for international sociology. We not only learn about the Indian sub-continent, but also learn from it. What is important in "Southern sociology" is not necessarily the discovering of alternative "founding fathers" of the same social sciences but rather the fact that "peripheral" societies can "produce social thought about the modern world which has as much intellectual power as metropolitan social thought, and more political relevance" (Connell 2007: viii, xii).

The teaching of "sociology" (actually, at that time as social anthropology) started in India in 1919, at the University of Bombay (today's Mumbai), but was preceded by systematic empirical research devoted to satisfy the colonial government's needs to classify, categorize and document the life of people under its rule. During the pre-independence period3, the most important topics of social research were the caste system, tribal communities, family, marriage and kinship, rural and urban communities. The colonial administration had been aware of the inadequate and often inaccurate commonsense understanding of local customs, traditions and misjudgements about different institutional arrangements. Selection of research topics was based at that time on Western values and normative principles of Christianity, was ideologically biased and according to today's Indian scholars, it exaggerated segmentary cleavages in Indian society. …

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