Ethnographies of South Asia
Early Anthropologists of South Asia set out to discover a singular and coherent understanding of its civilizational "essence." Religious and caste groups, village and kin based communities were studied in terms of "Great" and "Little" traditions that they were purportedly an aspect of. This survey course proceeds from these early works to the era of village studies that sought to delineate the structure and function of social organization in South Asia, as well as its "meaning." We will study texts that examine meanings of religious ideologies and ritual prestations, and the ways in which they enframe the time, space and mode of life of different sets of people across the subcontinent. Meanings that are attributed to various social relations are also a function of history. Through the work of historical anthropologists, we will study how colonial interventions and its structures of power have worked to order social networks and alliances, as well as ideas and opinions that communities hold about themselves. Finally, we will bring the course to a point where the revolt of community ties and alliances against national and nationalist concordances can be plotted. Concurrently, we will encounter the emergence of an ethnographic mode that has come to recognize a crisis of meanings, the very meanings in which anthropologists had hoped to find the essence of a culture and society.