29 July, 2021

The Public Scientist

Sociology was his discipline but his influence went beyond academia and across the world

The Public Scientist

Professor M.N. Srinivas was a professional sociologist, but his demise will sadden scholars in a number of disciplines. His influence went beyond academia and its cloistered specialisations. In fact, he was one of the very few who enjoyed the stature of a national intellectual in our country.

In the years prior to Independence, sociology and social anthropology in India had benefited enormously from such sterling figures as G.S. Ghurye, D.P. Mukherji, N.K. Bose and Radhakamal Mukherjee. Today, however, their contributions are usually taken as some kind of intellectual pre-history and not as crucial building blocks for ongoing research. This is probably sad, but it means that contemporary sociology and social anthropology in India begins with M.N. Srinivas. Why is this so?

The first reason is that with Srinivas, detailed field-worked monographs became the order of the day. Fieldwork no longer meant moving from village to village, tribe to tribe, but locating oneself in the dense interactive framework of a village (or even an urban vicinage) and observing, preferably as a...

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