The Politics of Indigenous Social Science: A View from Indian Sociology

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 8:45 AM
Room: Booth 49
Oral Presentation
Manish THAKUR , Public Policy and Management, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, KOLKATA, India
A deep sense of ambivalence towards the Western social scientific categories has been a characteristic feature of the growth and development of social sciences in post-colonial societies. Indian sociologists, in particular, have frequently turned their critical gaze on the ethnocentrism of the Western social sciences. They have demonstrated as to how the conceptual categories used by Indian social scientists are the precipitates of the Western social, intellectual and particularly academic history that rarely fit Indian definitions of reality. Their treatment of Indian cultural realities in Western framework and the attendant imposition of an alien epistemology on Indian reality have at times provoked extreme responses – from the impossibility of an Indian sociology to the calls for an Indian ethno-sociology. At the core of such responses is the contestation over one’s approach and orientation to Western modernity. Against this backdrop, the present paper seeks to investigate if Radhakamal Mukerjee’s conceptual and theoretical innovations should be treated as rejection of Western modernity lock, stock and barrel or only as refutations of the Western ethnocentrism. The paper does not purport to look at Mukerjee’s contributions in their entirety, which, even otherwise, is a daunting task to undertake within the space of a single project. Nor is it intended to assess his role as a ‘pioneer’ in the context of the history of the growth and development of sociology in India. Its aim is to selectively present Mukerjee’s axial concerns and analytical thematics from his enormous body of writings with a view to examine his critique of western modernity. Of necessity, the proposal intends to appraise Mukerjee’s critique of Western social science approaches to the study of Indian society and culture. It attempts to discern the elements of an alternative indigenous (Indian?) vision through a critical reading of his oeuvre.