Theory and ethnography in the modern anthropology of India

Peter Berger


Over the last sixty-five years, since the country’s independence, trained anthropologists have conducted extensive ethnographic fieldwork in India. In this time span, anthropological discourses about Indian society have developed their own specificity, while at the same time the anthropology of India has also had a profound impact on the discipline as a whole. This paper provides a critical overview of the general theoretical perspectives that have been employed by these anthropologists and that have been developed on the basis of their ethnographic experiences. In allusion to Ortner (1995), this paper is a plea for “ethnographic approval” in devising theoretical perspectives. It is argued that anthropological theorizing loses its heuristic value (i.e., the ability to help investigate, understand, analyze and compare the particular sociocultural life worlds of humans) when it abandons the dialogue with ethnographic reality.




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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau2.2.017