06. Historical Anthropology and Bankim Chandra Chatterjee

Historical Anthropology and Bankim Chandra Chatterjee
Sabyasachi Bhattacharya

Although the modern proponents of Historical Anthropology tend to claim to be the founders of a new social science, it is worthwhile to look back on the explorations in that area by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. Anthropology is one of the youngest of the social sciences and thus in the mid-nineteenth century it was as yet an emerging science which shared a space with historiography of ancient societies and civilisations, study of folk-lore and mythology, and ethnographic observer reports of ‘primitive’ cultures by explorers and colonial administrators. The boundaries of the emerging science were fuzzy and that was its weakness as well as its strength. When we look at the writings of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (1838- 1894) we get an idea of the state of that science in India through the optics of one of the best minds of the Indian renaissance. He is important in the lineage of Indian anthropological tradition in the period before the science was professionalised.

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