My research aims to demonstrate the making of an ‘Indo-European’ anthropology that developed out of active interactions between missionaries and Hindu intellectuals in nineteenth-century South Asia. This is an approach through which I shall foreground the birth of modern anthropology within South Asia outside practices of colonial governmentality, and European universities in the nineteenth century. I conceive of this research as an innovative intervention in the global history of anthropology. Modern global history has effectively demonstrated how the birth of anthropology that was traditionally located within the ‘local history of Europe’, was actually a result of cross-cultural global entanglements majorly facilitated by missionaries and travellers. Yet, major scholars working on the ‘global history’ of missionary encounters with South Asia such as Joan-Pau Rubiés, Geoffrey Oddie and Will Sweetman have focused mostly on European sources, and read them in context of developments in Europe or colonial policy. I will go beyond such Eurocentric ‘global’ histories of anthropology by placing missionary writings on religion and society within older debates on the same that were already a part of South Asian traditions. Examining the writings of missionaries and Hindu thinkers simultaneously as producers of anthropological knowledge, I shall disturb the image of the anthropologist producing knowledge by observing and learning from ‘interlocutors', and instead focus on the making of a dialogic anthropology as a 'transcultural' process. This project builds directly upon my MA thesis, which examined the travels of Mirza Abu Taleb through Europe and Asia during the closure of the 18th century, as an alternative node within the global history of anthropology.
For my PhD research, I shall study the writings of the Baptists of the Serampore Mission from the early nineteenth-century, Scottish missionaries such as Claudius Buchanan associated with Fort William College at Calcutta, and Alexander Duff; also, the Jesuits of the St. Xavier’s College of Calcutta who were active from the mid nineteenth century, and led missions in Bengal. Although from different theological dispensations, all of these missionaries were united in their close interactions and study of their contemporary Hindus: in fact, the Jesuits of St. Xavier’s founded the Calcutta School of Indology in the late nineteenth-century, which was actively facilitated by participation and inspiration from Hindu thinkers, and the desire of the Jesuits to bring together Christian and Hindu ideas. I will thus, bring these sources in conversation with Hindu intellectuals from the early to late nineteenth-centuries, such as Ramram Basu, Rammohan Roy, Krishna Mohan Banerjee and Brahmanbandhav Upadhyay who took part in and facilitated knowledge making processes or discourses with the missionaries. Finally, I will write a history of anthropology in nineteenth-century South Asia that shifts focus from the colonial archive and imperial interests, and reveal cosmopolitan networks of intellectual exchanges that flourished between Hindus and missionaries despite the rising tide of religious nationalism. Overall, I shall also contribute to larger concerns of global history, by providing methodological perspective on levelling Asia, Africa and Latin America with Europe in the making of the ‘global’.
Research Interests: Cultural encounters between Europe and South Asia, Colonialism, late eighteenth-nineteenth century Bengal, Christian Missions, Hinduism, transcultural histories of anthropology, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism.
Teaching Assistant: Religion and Society (SOC 225), Spring 2021
UGC-NET for Lectureship, Sociology