Indian Anthropology and the Construction of 'Tribal Ethnicity' Before Independence

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During the pre-independence decades of the twentieth century, the concept of ‘race’ was nationalized in India. In view of the connectedness between anthropological knowledge and cultural policy, the question emerges of how exponents of Indian anthropology re-formulated ‘race’ within a nationally relevant racial studies framework. My paper aims to trace how the relational concepts of ‘tribe’ and ethnic diversity were reconfigured within a new sociological, rather than colonialist, discourse of race, thereby setting out the terms for a national science. By questioning how and why researchers dispensed with the idea of the ‘aboriginal’ before 1947, the counter-ideological background of both Indian anthropology, and the closely related field of Tribal studies, will become clear. The paper focuses on the work of Brajendra Nath Seal, Sarat Chandra Roy and Dhirendra Nath Majumdar who were the main exponents of this emerging discipline.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRevisiting Tribal Studies
Subtitle of host publicationA Glimpse After Hundred Years
EditorsM.C. Behera
Place of PublicationNew Delhi
PublisherRawat Publications
ISBN (Print)978-81-316-0936-1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Tribal Studies
  • ethnicity
  • race
  • diversity

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