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Social sciences and public debates: The case of India

Sciences sociales et débats publics : le cas de l’Inde
Veena Das et Shalini Randeria
p. 81-98


Cet article s’intéresse à un champ spécifique de la recherche universitaire en Inde (sur la démocratie et la dépossession, sur le mythe, sur l’histoire et l’historiographie) afin de comprendre comment les préoccupations nationales publiques continuent à structurer la production et la réception de la connaissance anthropologique/sociologique au sein d’un monde universitaire pluricentrique. Nous soutenons que, en dépit du fait que les lieux d’énonciation affectent aussi bien les processus de production de la connaissance que de consommation de cette dernière, les flux mondiaux de ressources et d’idées ne se traduisent pas en une simple relation d’hégémonie, entre, d’un côté, les centres métropolitains et, de l’autre, les prétendues périphéries régionales. En effet, malgré l’asymétrie des ressources, la recherche anthropologique et sociologique aux États-Unis et en Europe n’a en définitive pas tant pesé sur la définition des programmes de recherche indiens sur l’Inde. L’une des raisons principales à la résonance de la théorie sociale en Inde et à l’étranger est, selon nous, à trouver dans le fait que les chercheurs indiens qui dialoguent avec la théorie sociale occidentale, loin de se contenter d’appliquer des concepts importés dans le contexte indien, contribuent directement et activement à la théorie sociale.

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1Although the anthropological production of knowledge is dispersed over many different sites of scholarship, it is unfortunate that metropolitan protocols of reading often end up consigning the knowledge practices outside certain dominant centers (e.g., the United States, the United Kingdom, France) to the category of “regional traditions” (Das, 2013). The well-intentioned gestures behind such categorical innovations as “world anthropology” notwithstanding, it is rare to find any acknowledgment, let alone a serious discussion, of the theoretical inputs from these “other” places outside the United States and Western Europe, where concepts, methods, and the type of data that counts as “evidence” circulate in different kinds of localized communities. Location strongly affects processes of both knowledge production and consumption, not the least through the association of certain regions with a particular trope—for instance the study of India through the lens of caste, or of African societies by way of “tribes,” or of middle Eastern societies through that of the “honor complex” (Appadurai, 1986). These metropolitan tropes have in turn also shaped the self-representations of these societies and regions as, for instance, the understanding of Afghanistan as an isolated, self-contained society untouched by “outside” influences despite a long record of past and present traffic in ideas, goods, and people with neighboring societies (Monsutti, 2013). While no one would deny the impact of global flows of ideas and resources, these do not translate into a simple relation of hegemony between metropolitan centers and so-called regional peripheries.

2We would caution against attempts to read political and epistemological positionality into the geographical location or origins of scholars, even as loci of enunciation do matter, as we argue below. We start by acknowledging that the boundaries of a knowledge tradition do not coincide with the boundaries of a nation-state. In an early volume prefiguring the discussion of what has come to be known as “world anthropologies,” Gerholm and Hannerz (1982) pointed to exchanges, or lack thereof, among sequestered traditions of “national anthropologies” often mutually ignorant of one another and frequently communicating with each other only through the mediation of third locations. Considerable resources were invested in the United States to produce scholarship on India in the 1950s and 1960s within the Cold War context of area studies. Yet remarkably none of the scholarly traditions then dominant in American anthropology were successful in defining scholarly agendas on the Indian subcontinent. Despite acknowledged asymmetries in knowledge production and access to resources, neither the theme of US hegemony nor the call for alternatives in anthropological scholarship, resonates in India in the same way as it does in Latin America (Ribeiro and Escobar, 2006) or Eastern/Central Europe (Buchowski, 2012). For one, American scholarship had to contend with the strength of the much older British tradition of scholarship on India (for example, the leading journal established by Louis Dumont and David Pocock, Contributions to Indian Sociology, bears ample testimony to the marginality of American influence to the disciplines of social anthropology and sociology). For another, anthropology as a discipline was not institutionalized in India following a four-field US model. Despite the inequality in resources for research between Western and Indian universities, and the fact that many Indian anthropologists and sociologists have earned their doctoral degrees abroad, scholarship in the United States and Europe has not been decisive in shaping academic and research agendas on India in India.

Anthropology/sociology in a pluri-centric academic world

3Our aim in this article is to focus on a small slice of the work done in universities and research institutions in India in order to understand how national public preoccupations continue to structure anthropological/sociological knowledge production and its reception within a pluri-centric academic world (see also Daveluy and Dorais, 2009). We recognize at the outset that there are very strong ties between Indian scholars and their counterparts in the diasporic communities from South Asia. We also acknowledge that many Western scholars have developed strong roots in India both intellectually and socially and can hardly be treated as “foreigners” given their integration into Indian intellectual life (for instance, Lloyd and Suzanne Rudolph, Jean-Luc Chambard, Günther-Dietz Sontheimer, Anne Feldhaus, to name only a few). What complicates the relationship between scholars in India and those abroad, irrespective of nationality or origins, is the politics of location in a variety of academic landscapes. But unlike Latin America, for instance, social science scholarship in India does not define itself as peripheral along lines of language. A large number of publications in the social sciences in India are in English, and although this poses important challenges to the issue of scholarship in the vernacular, social scientists do not, in general, feel intimidated by the dominance of English on a global scale.

4The reception of scholarship varies with the publics to whom it is addressed, as well as with one’s institutional location. The Indian context is further complicated by divisions within the country between scholars with easy, regular, access to Western academic institutions and networks and those who feel themselves excluded from these. While some scholars write for a national readership in India alone, others address multiple audiences in India and abroad. Scholarly interests and agendas of those whose work is applied in nature and thus aimed at national academic and policy constituencies differ from theoretically oriented scholarship that addresses an academic audience in India as much as elsewhere. Scholarly writing on controversial issues of public interest, such as women’s rights, urban restructuring or Hindu-Muslim relations, joins into public debates while still being of interest to, and also accessible to, an international academic readership. One reason for this larger resonance between social theory in India and abroad is that Indian scholars are in dialogue with Western social theory and are contributing to it rather than merely importing and applying the concepts to the Indian context. We are not attempting a comparison between the kind of scholarship on India produced in the West and that produced in India, since entities connected to each other by way of their historical and contemporary entanglements cannot be meaningfully compared (Randeria, 1999). Instead, we are particularly interested in rendering the differences of tone, intensity, and pitch on some of the important recent controversies that have marked social anthropology, sociology, and history in India. The case of India is indicative of an attentiveness to, and a more general desire for, social sciences in the so-called margins of world society to the task of bringing concepts near « home », but also rather to making concepts generated in their own societies to acquire a larger purchase.

5In India, the focus in anthropology and sociology on the study of one’s own society has had important consequences in terms of a vibrant tradition that never allowed India to be spoken of in terms that were simply imported (see Peirano, 1998). This tendency, however, came at a price, namely, the neglect of comparative ethnographic perspectives that would have encouraged comparisons with Africa or Latin America. Although many anthropologists write as if the discipline has the same contours in different parts of the world, a moment’s reflection will show that boundaries between anthropology and sociology have been configured rather differently in various regions of the world. Moreover, one cannot draw sharp boundaries between anthropology and history or political science in India, since there is considerable traffic in theories, overlap in methods, and a circulation of ideas among these disciplines. In some cases, such as that of sociology and social anthropology, the distinction itself has been questioned on the grounds that the application of such criteria as the difference between simple and complex societies, or literate and non-literate ones, cannot be meaningfully applied in India (if it can be applied to any part of the world today). The lines between anthropology and sociology, for example, are porous—Indian sociology itself having been defined as overlapping with Indology, on the one hand (Dumont and Pocock, 1957), and social anthropology, on the other. Further, the disciplinary division of labor between sociology and social anthropology is not predicated on the putative similarities and differences between “ourselves and others”; rather, the two disciplines are seen as constituting a unified whole (Béteille, 2013). Interestingly, though the distinction between the two disciplines in India has always been blurred, the reception of this body of scholarship in Europe and North America has been in the discipline of anthropology, non-European history, or cultural studies rather than in the discipline of sociology. While sociological scholarship in and from India has received little recognition in Western sociology with its strong Eurocentrism, in India sociology has always been taught in a comparative perspective, albeit comparisons with other non-Western regions and traditions of scholarship are conspicuous by their absence.

The desire for, and positioning of, Indian intellectual traditions

6Colonial representations of Indian society as either “timeless,” and thus without a sense of history, or as incapable of politics based on any other criteria except those of sectarian or caste identities, has been challenged by Indian scholars since the 1930s. Social anthropologists such as N.K. Bose and historians such as D.D. Kosambi and Rahul Sankrityayan worked with Gandhi and the nationalist movement, seeing their disciplines as important tools for building a new and just society. It is not that concern with Western hegemony was absent, but despite the predominant influence of English-language scholarship, there has never been a single European national tradition, or a particular American tradition, that has dominated social science scholarship in India. The enduring theme of the “Indianness” of history, sociology, and social anthropology finds varied expressions in attempts to delineate the specific history of the disciplines in terms of institutions and of anchoring concepts that can be retrieved from Indian texts (Madan, 1982; Marriott, 1990), and occasionally by turning the anthropological gaze back on the West (Arif, 2004; Chatterji, 1998; Giri, 2009; Uberoi, 1987). Moreover, the aspiration for an « Indian » sociology or an « Indian » perspective on history can also be read as a criticism of the now increasingly predominant right wing idea of an Indian history as exclusively «  Hindu » history.

7An abiding theme has been the desire for an authentic “Indian” sociology or anthropology—earlier expressed as “swaraj” (autonomy) in ideas to use J.P.S. Uberoi’s (1968) felicitous phrase. Volumes on the history of Indian sociology (cf. Das, 2003) foreground figures, who are not known or not integrated in any history of the discipline and express a strong disavowal of the metropolitan protocols of reading that would reserve the term anthropology for what it encompasses in the United States and Europe. The “Writing Culture” project (Clifford and Marcus, 1986), for instance, completely overlooked the diverse origins and lives of anthropology, ethnology, or sociology in the US academy and beyond it. But it also failed to take cognizance of the very different ways in which theories from India or Latin America traveled to Euro-America and the reception they received there. Our criticism is not that this neglect makes the project invalid, but that the tendency to assume that the anthropology as practiced in the United States can stand for the discipline as a whole is problematic, as Peirano (1997, 1998) has demonstrated.

8Within social anthropology and sociology, the question of whether these disciplines are like the sciences, with a common repertoire of concepts and methods, or whether concepts such as “secularism,” “democracy,” “stratification,” and “equality” are the results of the particular history of social sciences in Europe and hence inapplicable to Indian contexts, has been the subject of passionate debates in India (Béteille, 2004; Madan, 1993; Ramanujan, 1989; Saran, 1969). This controversy was reflected in the column “For a Sociology of India” in the journal Contributions to Indian Sociology—a flagship journal founded by Louis Dumont and David Pocock and later edited by T.N. Madan and others—which provides a very interesting lens through which to view the nature of debates regarding concepts, methods, and pedagogy. While Western scholars are much more familiar with Dipesh Chakrabarty’s (1992) essay on provincializing Europe, his concerns stem from a long tradition of debate not always as evident to Western scholars in their reception of this important essay (for recent contributions on these themes, see Patel, 2011).

9It is interesting to note that the debate on social science concepts was not simply a matter of claiming academic autonomy. There was also the pressing question of whether a secular and democratic nation could be built on concepts and institutions of colonial provenance and “borrowed” from elsewhere (Randeria et al., 2004). Or whether it was possible for India to wear the garb of modernity differently, i.e., to be modern without being Western (Uberoi et al., 2008: 32). Astute observers of Indian democracy, whether located in India or elsewhere, have argued that the reason why India has been able to sustain a democratic framework is precisely because there was some synergy between the deeper spirit of democracy that draws from civilizational concepts and the institutionalization of its apparatus, both in the colonial period and in the course of building an independent nation-state. This point is not uncontroversial: many others have argued that while India might have been successful in avoiding authoritarian rule, its democratic institutions have failed to serve the needs of the poor and the marginalized populations (see below). It is not our intention to take sides in these debates here. What interests us are the resonances between public, political debates, and academic debates. In fact, many of the academic concerns with the nature of democracy grow out of the vibrant civil society debates in the country. Some scholars became very interested in seeing whether the founding figures of Indian nationalism drew concepts from Indian traditions that became part of the imagination of the nation. Others felt that the entry of lower castes and the more marginal populations, traditionally excluded from Sanskritic learning, accounted for the fact that, despite many failures, the lower castes and the poor (there are vast overlaps between these two categories) show such investment in the democratic processes.

10What kinds of political concepts derived from Indian traditions might serve as resources for imagining a modern polity? A recent magisterial study by Ananya Vajpeyi (2012) poses the issue in terms of the backstory of Indian democracy, considering what history of thinking about the self and sovereignty might be elicited from India’s pre-colonial archive. Vajpeyi astutely notes that no simple definition of Indian tradition will suffice for the disputed position of Sanskritic sources in relation to vernacular ones, as well as the Islamic legacy built into Indian political thought, which makes it difficult to posit the category of “Indian tradition.” In fact, others have argued that vernacular traditions in both literature and art were in continuous conversation with the Sanskritic traditions, so that it is important to recognize not only the debt that the elite Sanskritic texts owe their vernacular counterparts, but also the appropriation of subaltern forms of expression by elite writers and artists (Chatterji, 2012; Wakankar, 2010).

11Fully aware of these contentious questions about tradition, Vajpeyi nevertheless suggests that the category might serve as a “heuristic device” that enables a discussion on these issues. She draws attention to terms from Indian sources (both Sanskritic and vernacular) that were used by the different founding figures of the Indian nation, ranging from Gandhi to Ambedkar. She perceptively observes that these concepts were not simply lifted from ancient texts but were given new meanings through their actual engagement in the political process. Thus, swaraj (sovereignty of the self and a claim for self-rule), dalit (downtrodden, a term that former untouchable castes used to designate themselves), ahimsa (nonviolence as a political strategy), and satyagraha (insistence on truth through civil disobedience) all had origins in different areas of tradition and were used by and for different political constituencies. One might quarrel with the rapid pace of Vajpeyi’s book or contest certain specific arguments, but it hooks into an important aspiration of social sciences in India. A way of talking about tradition and modernity was needed that was different from what was available in the writings of scholars such as Edward Shils (1961), for whom attachment to tradition was seen as somehow “backward,” or from the way the “new nations” concept was formulated in early and even later writings by Clifford Geertz (1963, 2004), with the attendant implications of the many deficiencies of newly independent nations, deficiencies that they would have to overcome to function in the modern world.

12The question of history is a volatile one in India. Major public disputes raise the issue of what is to count as historical facts. For example, consider the demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992: Hindu activists claimed they were simply reclaiming the space for Lord Rama, whose temple reportedly had been demolished to build the mosque. Had there ever been a temple on that site or not? Some scholars such as Ashis Nandy (1995) have argued that posing the issue in such terms is itself the problem, for it assumes that there is only one authoritative way of constructing the past. Whatever the “truth” of the claim that Muslim rulers built mosques by demolishing temples, people created multiple stories around these sites, says Nandy, and these stories enabled people of different religious persuasions to inhabit the social world together. In his passionate prose, he asks:

Now that the irrational savages, living in timelessness or in cyclical or other forms of disreputable nonlinear times, have been finally subjugated, should our public and intellectual awareness include a new sensitivity to the cultural priorities, psychological skills, and perhaps even the ethical concerns represented by the societies or communities that in different ways still cussedly choose to live outside history? Are they protecting or holding in trust parts of our disowned selves that we have dismissed as worthless or dangerous? (Nandy, 1995: 46)

13Take another important scholar, who spent a part of his scholarly life in India and still writes prolifically in English as well as in Bengali, Ranajit Guha. As the founder of subaltern studies, his powerful writings have shaped subsequent research in India and worldwide, but his later work on forms of history writing is somewhat different in tone than the founding essays of subaltern studies (see Guha, 2002). Like Nandy, he too interrogates the idea of history, but his special focus is on Hegel’s notion of “world history”—a concept that Guha sees as a barely disguised attempt to justify the division of the world into civilized and barbarian nations. On the side of “world history,” says Guha, Hegel placed rational progress sanctioned by Christian Geist in European nations, while the rest were consigned to “proto-history”—and where all religious, philosophical, and literary production in India, for instance, was said to belong. Hegel further linked world history and the state and, according to Guha, he first used Greek mythology to argue that it is the right of heroes to establish states, and then—moving from mythology to a secularized history—argued through analogy that what holds for mythological heroes holds for civilized nations as well. For Guha, “Thinly veiled in this philosophical language there is…the formula that all students of colonialism will recognize straightway as the notorious right to conquest” (Guha, 2002: 42).

14So, what methods might those on the other side of Hegel’s model use to claim their own history? We wish to draw attention to an important insight from Guha, with which he delineates the etymology of itihasa (literally, “narrated past”) and shows how its meaning changed as it was grafted on to “history” through an Orientalist reading. In Western notions, history is the authoritative rendering of the story by a narrator who is in full control, and its rationality is authorized by the state. For the bards who tell history in the epics in India, it is taken for granted that the story would unfold in different ways in different times and in relation to different audiences. According to Guha, by making itihasa a part of history in the colonial narrative, Indian historians could be assimilated to the statist model without ever having to confront what they had given up.

15The idea that history is a term for various ways in which we might speak of the past has met with a sharp rebuttal from Velcheru Narayana Rao, David Shulman, and Sanjay Subrahmanyam (2001), who argue that in parts of South India we can locate with specificity the moment at which a historical consciousness emerged during the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. These authors aver that historiography had established an important place for itself in the ecology of genres by the late medieval centuries. They present the sociological explanation that a middle range of scholar-scribes concerned with the selection, ordering, and evaluation of events in a historical mode emerged from the Islamic sphere in the south of India. Therefore, these authors claim that this period—the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries—marks a distinctive Indian form of early modernity and that to assume that all modes of speaking of the past can be assimilated to history is to deny the distinct appearance of a historical consciousness and thus to accept the mistaken idea that Indians had no sense of history.

16It seems to us that the arguments around history end up not being a debate but, rather, run in parallel streams. On the one hand, despite the claim to be examining textures of time, Rao, Shulman and Subrahmanyam do not engage in any depth with questions of time and ontology. It is also problematic that the appearance of a matter-of-fact tone is seen to be indicative for them of a historical consciousness. Veena Das (1977) has shown, for instance, how in earlier texts, such as the caste Puranas of thirteenth-century Gujarat, long lists of gotra (exogamous group) names and accounts of migration of deities are written in a realistic mode. On the other hand, in thinking of history’s doubles, Nandy (1995) does not ask in what contexts the pressure to distinguish a historical and a mythical account is felt in the actual flow of life. The vexed issue of the relation of myth and history continues to haunt historiography. But above all, the question of what kind of pressures the present puts on the historian to define what is meant by “truth” in accounts of the past is rarely engaged. It is as if the historian is immune from any positionality in relation to claims over the past.

17Let us illustrate the pressure of the present on deciding what counts as fact in relation to the past based on that aforementioned Babri Masjid (Babri mosque)–Ram Janmabhumi (the birthplace of the Hindu God Rama) controversy, which became emblematic of the question of the future of secularism in India. Deepak Mehta (2014) carried out a painstaking study of this conflict in the legal archive that stretches from 1885, when the first suit on the issue was filed in the British courts, to the final verdict by the Allahabad High Court in 2010, which was stayed by the Supreme Court on appeal in 2011. What is most illuminating in Mehta’s analysis is the shift of perspective he undertakes. Instead of engaging the issue of whether a temple existed on the site on which the mosque was built, he asks: how does legal reasoning even address this issue? He shows that over the long history of this dispute, not only have parties to the dispute changed—it is not simply Hindus versus Muslims because different configurations within each group waxed and waned—but also the courts have been obliged to transform this dispute to one about religious property. By using such legal mechanisms as that of status quo and foregrounding the issue of public order, we get yet another level at which the question of what constitutes the historical truth is deferred. While there is a spate of writing by historians and social scientists on the merits of the legal judgment, we are interested in showing how an academic question such as “What are truth conditions?” resonates with urgent issues pertaining to the secular and democratic framework of the Indian polity.

Democracy in the borderlands, public issues and policy prescriptions

18Scholarly opinion on how to evaluate democratic processes in India is divided, but there is agreement that they are complex and that the experience of democracy on the sub-continent poses a challenge to political theory. It had been long since assumed that the preconditions for establishing a democratic polity were high rates of literacy with relative homogeneity in the religious and ethic composition of the country. None of these conditions have been met in India. Since the 1960s political scientists as well as sociologists and social anthropologists have been unequivocal in asserting, therefore, that the Indian experience revealed the ethnocentrism of Western social and political theory itself (Kaviraj, 2004).

19Despite some claims to success measured in terms of widespread participation in electoral processes—also enabling previously marginalized groups such as the members of lower castes (e.g., Yadavs, Dalits) to acquire political power at regional levels (Yadav, 2000)—there are disquieting limitations. Whole sections of the population imagined as living on the margins of the state have either been subjected to tremendous state violence in the name of maintaining national unity, or their forms of life have been disrupted by development projects and commercial enterprises, which have deliberately impoverished them by stripping them of access and use rights to their resources (Brara, 1992; Randeria, 2007b; Sundar, 2010). Such issues raise the important question of how dispossession, violence and injustice can occur within democratic societies (Chatterjee, 2004; Gupta, 2012; Das, 2011). Work done by Indian scholars has much to offer to international debates on this issue.

20In terms of a spatial imagination of the nation, it is clear that many conflicts that mark the borderlands need to be framed in terms of the longue durée. We take only one example here. The northeastern part of the country has been defined in geopolitical terms as an area that shows the security risks India faced after independence because of the very volatile borders between India, China, then-East Pakistan, and Burma. Many have argued that much of this conflict stemmed from the artificiality of the borders that the demands of the nation-state created, but the historian Bodhisattva Kar (2009a, 2009b) has shown in meticulous detail that the complex history of the colonial management and policing of these borders does not permit such a simple explanation. For example, there were continuities of style with the colonial government, which had to negotiate treaty obligations with the hill tribes and ended up in some cases paying taxes to them. Kar also shows that commercial activities between Marwari traders from Bengal and hill communities—which lay beyond the line of control and clearly outside the legal limits—were also tolerated for practical reasons. If we factor in the impact of the opium trade and the complex map of various princely and chiefly territorial units in this region, as well as the relations of political tribute and trade between the highlands and the lowlands, the depiction in much of the international literature of indigenous communities living in relative isolation before the advent of the nation-state becomes hard to sustain. Yet there is little doubt that new notions of citizenship and demands for full allegiance to the nation has led to virtual military occupation of these areas by larger states—China as well as India.

21Anthropology had a role to play in the portrayal of the “innocent” tribals that Jawaharla Nehru, India’s first prime minister, imbibed from the British anthropologist Verrier Elwin. Such constructions made it difficult for Indian leaders to understand the aspirations of various groups such as the as or the Mizos for political autonomy in the initial period of India’s independence (Guha, 1999; Nag, 2009). In areas such as the Kutch desert lying between India and Pakistan, Farhana Ibrahim’s (2008) excellent ethnography of these borderlands shows that different kinds of border-making practices were put in place involving both force and negotiation by each country, causing various groups to constantly reshape their sense of belonging in this changing milieu. Other works vividly show violence of a different kind, as when commercial cartels engaged in extractive economies make the habitat of many indigenous groups unlivable (Baviskar, 2001; Padel and Das, 2010).

22Political urgencies often require that we concern ourselves with human rights violations, disenfranchisement and environmental degradation and that we use our work to call the state, corporations as well as international organizations to account (Randeria, 2007a). Scholars in India are constantly trying to balance this need for immediacy with more patient explorations of the complex relations between the social sciences and the making of a more just polity in India. A striking feature of social science scholarship in the country is the close alignment with public issues such that problems for academic research are often generated out of issues that require policy analysis. However, despite the fact that compared to Europe many more anthropologists and sociologists in India are op.-ed. writers and newspaper columnists in the national English press than are economists or political scientists, critical social sciences have sought to steer clear of involvement in policy prescription (Béteille, 2013).

23New demands for research impact and external funding may weaken the chosen absence of policy involvement. The focus on public issues has also led to the development of several fields of more applied sociology (for example, research centers specializing in studies of social stratification, educational achievement and social mobility of particular groups; or the assessment of the impact of large-scale development-induced displacement on resettlement and rehabilitation; or evaluations of state programs for family planning, child nutrition or employment generation) or applied anthropology (for example, within the Anthropological Survey of India, the largest employer of anthropology graduates in the country). This raises an important question regarding the locus of sociological/social anthropological knowledge production. Universities are no longer the only place from which social science research is being done in India. Much of it is taking place outside institutions of higher education at small research centers specializing on a few thematic areas. Problem-driven social engineering type studies funded by international organizations and international NGOs are being produced by professional NGOs and researcher centers on a contractual basis for development policy constituencies in India and abroad. The rapidly changing landscape of social science scholarship alerts us to the need to differentiate between different kinds of research addressing a variety of audiences within and beyond the academy, changing institutional and funding contexts, which affect the kinds of independence that scholars have to define their own agendas. These shifts and the tensions they generate would merit a nuanced and wide-ranging sociological enquiry.

24(This article is an expanded version of Das and Randeria, 2014.)

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Veena Das et Shalini Randeria, « Social sciences and public debates: The case of India », Socio, 5 | 2015, 81-98.

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Veena Das et Shalini Randeria, « Social sciences and public debates: The case of India », Socio [En ligne], 5 | 2015, mis en ligne le 06 novembre 2015, consulté le 23 mars 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/socio.1915

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Veena Das

Veena Das est professeur d’anthropologie, titulaire de la chaire Krieger-Eisenhower à la Johns Hopkins University.

Shalini Randeria

Shalini Randeria est recteur de l’Institut de sciences humaines de Vienne et professeur de sociologie et d’anthropologie sociale à l’Institut des hautes études internationales et du développement à Genève.

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