South Asian Anthropology


South Asian Anthropology

This group is dedicated to all who are interested in South Asia.

Members: 138
Latest Activity: Apr 25, 2016

Discussion Forum

Recommended ethnographies of South Asia 5 Replies

Started by Laurahead. Last reply by Suneel Kumar May 9, 2013.

Syllabus and Reading List for Anthropology of South Asia 4 Replies

Started by Suneel Kumar. Last reply by Suneel Kumar Jun 30, 2012.

Cultural vilation in Central India 1 Reply

Started by Arnab Sen. Last reply by Piers Locke Mar 21, 2010.

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Comment by Nold Egenter on June 6, 2009 at 5:43am
I spent about 8 wintertimes in India with research in various regions (Maharashtra, Karnataka, Orissa Madhya Pradesh). Main topic: permanent demarcations of village territory (Bastar region). Temporary demarcations of agricultural fields and temple grounds during holi-festivals: 100 villages of Maharasthra. The basic aim of the activity was to demonstrate the existence of traditional territorial demarcation systems consisting of signs constructed with fibrous materials and wooden poles in India's rural village cultures.

This type of phenomenon has a long history in Christian proselytism. Missionaries interpreted such sacred structures in traditional societies as 'fetish', 'idol' and the like attributing them to primitive religion.

In Comte's evolutionary scheme towards positivism the term 'fetishism' gained a definite position within sociology and anthropology in the first level of his primary theological stage: from fetishism to polytheism and to monotheism.

In Japan where I had been living for 10 years, I had studied this 'fetish'-topic extensively in the empirical framework of 'semantic architecture' on three levels a) in various formations all over the Japanese archipelago, b) one village in details, c) 100 villages in Shiga prefecture.

One of the main reasons was: during my work I had become aware that Western classification of this phenomenon was entirely wrong. Its primitve construction methods showed clearly that it must have been a tradition rooted in Neolithic times. As formation of a territorial demarcation system it evidently contributed essentially to the formation of sedentary life and agrarian production. As a cyclically reproduced sign system it functioned as archivation of the local hegemony of the village founderhouse and thus created an elementary and functionally plausible social hierarchy. Its categorically polar structure introduced an elementary aesthetic principle (harmony of opposites) which acted as a cognitive model for natural forms (e.g. analogy to tree: crown and trunk) as well as a philosophical model of formal generality in a heterogeneous field. And finally it formed an aesthetic model for all kinds of practical creations (e.g. straw culture of Japan). The religious element is clearly secondary or tertiary: the present representant of the founderhouse in the Japanese village often has a particular position. He is some sort of a local ruler, chief in legal aspects and main priest of the Shinto shrine. It has to be noted that priest in Japanese translates as "owner of the deity" (kannushi). It is fairly clear that the ontological values are secondary and based on the positive conditions created by the primary conditions mentioned above.

The studies done in India were not made with the same intensity as those produced in Japan. But in the Maharashtra study the existence of such traditions could be shown to be very densely spread in about 100 villages visited in the South Konkan Hills of the Maharashtra region. Below are some illustrated reports on research done in India:
--Maharashtra Holi Pole survey:
--Lakshmi-cult, agrarian festival near Jagdalpur
--Temporary Hindoo Temple at Kovalam beach (near Trivandrum)
--Sacred pillars of Hindu Tradition in some Temples of Singapore

These ethnographic research activities are in a wider framework of sources of "(topo-)semantic architecture" or what I call the "Life-tree/ Fetish/ Maypole-complex"
If it is assumed that Neolithic agrarian village cultures were relatively simple and homogeneous in their outfit regarding material culture, but had relatively complex territorial and spatio-organisational structures due to such toposemantic systems, we could question the early civilisations with their centralised theocracies in many ways as constructing their monumental and historistic powerful system of control, but covering up the real sources of their system. Can the value system erected by early civilisations now be understood in new ways? Essentially as the result of spatial extension of the Neolithic system of toposemantic control, horizontally as well as vertically?

And finally: The ultimate problem of anthropology is always - if this is understood in terms of a scientific attitude - to indicate transitions from natural to cultural conditions. Constructive behaviour and architecture as its formal result might have played a much more important role in this type of transition than it was thought conventionally.
Comment by mouli g marur on June 3, 2009 at 3:48pm
I am probably the most outsider in this 'anthro' group. With an undergrad in Physics and Masters in Fine Arts (design), professionally I am a design/creative director with experience as an editor in publishing, advertising and e-learning. As a migrant myself (studied and taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for 18 years, and have been a creative consultant in middle east and india), issues concerning emigration and the fluid idea of 'home' occupy my thoughts. I am very interested in digitally documenting mythologies and legends of migrant populations through audio recordings, photography, drawings and video. I am particularly interested in culinary, performance and musical expressions of migrants. I am fascinated with the similarity in music of the European Romas (who trace their roots to Rajasthan) and their possible links to Narikuravaas or Kurivikkaaras of Tamil Nadu.
After 27 years as a commercial designer, my passion now is documentary filmmaking, and would love to travel and collaborate with ethnographers and anthropologists. I am well-versed in all the digital tools of the trade and will be glad to assist researchers with new technologies.
Comment by Timm Lau on June 3, 2009 at 12:06am
Hi. I'm a recent PhD and my research is on the Tibetan diaspora in India. So my work is located in South Asia, but with a Central Asian diaspora there. I did fieldwork in a Tibetan settlement in Himachal Pradesh, as well as going along on itinerant sweater trade in Bikaner, Rajasthan. My dissertation describes how Tibetan diasporic identities are shaped by recurrent movements between refugee and local Indian contexts, encompassing both literal movement during itinerant trading and being moved by the aspirational representations of Hindi film. Analysing my fieldwork data, I realised that Indian "ways of doing things", e.g. economic schemas and practices, are actually sometimes key enabling features for the Tibetan diaspora in India. My initial post-PhD writing appears to be focusing on emotions, media and cultural change, as well as construction/maintenance of social boundaries. Amongst other things, I'm currently very interested in critically investigating the concept of diaspora, if I can get someone to hire me to do it.
Comment by Chelsea L. Booth on June 2, 2009 at 2:16pm
Welcome to the group! Introductions sound like a great idea.

I'm finishing up my Phd this year and have done years of research in Darjeeling, Sikkim, and Nepal focusing on language shift and the construction of social difference.
Comment by Michael Yorke on June 2, 2009 at 4:38am
As an introduction I have done years of research and filmmaking among adivasis, namely the Ho and the Raj Gonds and also with Juna Akhara sadhus and I have made lots of films on India for the BBC and Channel Four. Can I help in any way?

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