ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Sociology in India-A View from Within

A View from Within Meenakshi Thapan Informed largely by the work of the French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, this article attempts to identify and analyse the 'field' of sociology in India. It traces the development of sociology as a discipline and then its institu- tionalisation in the Indian context Against this background are set out some of the various divisions, struggles, and relationships that constitute the field of sociology IN order to identify and analyse the field of sociology in India, it is first necessary to define both my use of the term field in a specific sense and of sociology as it has been conceived and practised in India.1 But first, let me state that my interest in this subject grew out of a wider concern with field work, both as it is conducted and written about.2 As sociologists or anthropologists we do field work on 'the other', an entity, being, or situation somewhat separate from ourselves as professional sociologists. My interest lies in turning the sociological gaze inwards, or more appropriately, on ourselves as practitioners of a particular discipline in which we have been trained. The question arises as to whether it is in fact possible to turn this gaze, so used to looking outside at 'the other', inwards to look at ourselves? Can we apply the same norms and principles of method to look at ourselves as we do, so critically and analytically, with 'the other'?' This sociological self of course also includes the author who is in fact attempting to turn the sociological gaze not only upon 'other' practitioners of the discipline but also on herself as a member of the community of sociologists. This is by no means an easy task for it may yet be simple to examine sociologists as 'the other' but far more difficult to understand sociologists and sociology in India with onself as an integral part of both the object of study as well as in the role of the observer. Bourdieu, of course, argues that for the development of a 'genuine social science' what is required is participant objectivation in which the researcher "reflexively situates his or her own position in relation to the study" [1989a]. This is considered an essential pre-requisite for a truly reflexive sociology.

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