An outsider looking in spots what insiders don’t

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