Ramachandra Guha on the sociologist M.N. Srinivas, in The Telegraph, Calcutta:
“Another reason that Srinivas wrote so insightfully about modern India was that he was always, in some sense, an outsider. He was born and raised in Mysore, where he was a Tamil living among Kannadigas. He then took a PhD in Bombay, where he was a Kannada speaker among Maharashtrians and Gujaratis. He later did another doctorate at Oxford, where he was a brown among whites, an Indian among Englishmen.
“After his return to India, he taught at universities in Baroda and Delhi, where he would have been seen as a south Indian among north Indians. In between his degree and his jobs he undertook long spells of fieldwork in southern Karnataka, where he was a townsman among rural folk. In all these situations, because he could not take the culture or language for granted, he captured aspects of its working that eluded the unselfconscious and unthinking insider.”
Read the full article: The sensitive sociologist
I am excited to read Ramachandra Guha’s profile of the great Mysorean! Thanks to Churumuri for pointing me to it.
M.N. Srinivas was a scholar who introduced/developed the concepts of “vote bank,” “dominant caste,” and “sanskritization.” The concepts have, over time, evolved to have newer and newer political meanings. Srinivas was an authority on the religious traditions of Kodavas, and produced some stimulating critical scholarship addressing Brahmin communities.
Srinivas remains the most cited — yet, strangely, most forgotten — scholar Mysore has produced on the sociology of caste, gender roles, and religion. At a time when the fad of finding a prestigious academic press was less pronounced, but he was still published by the distinguished Oxford University Press.
Srinivas never got the public adulation of R.K. Narayan, his good friend. Srinivas’ audience was different — scholars and policy-makers. His body of work is not only prolific, it is prodigious for its time.
One of M.N. Srinivas’s early books, “A remembered village” (1942), which profiled the village of Rampura (Ramapura) near Mysore, applied ethnographic surveys/interviews, a first by any sociologist studying Karnataka. He was a pioneer of the methods of field-based research useful to study complex societies such as India’s.
I haven’t read all of Srinivas’ ten or so books but those who want an introduction to his work may do well with “Indian society through personal writings” (1998).
Again, thanks to Ramachandra Guha for reintroducing us to the great social scientist.
Srinivas did not come up with the word Sanskritization. It was used by Indologists before his times.