DOI: 10.1111/amet.13246 ISSN: 0094-0496

A decolonial birth for anthropology

Bhrigupati Singh
  • Anthropology


“What good is anthropology?” Rather than accepting a predetermined notion of the good, I ask, What ancestral spirits animate anthropology as a vocation? In pursuing this question, I turn to the inaugural issue of American Ethnologist, which, I suggest, expresses an anthropological spirit readable via Lévi‐Strauss and Rousseau. I examine how this spirit was expressed in other parts of the world, such as the first generation of postcolonial anthropologists in India, as they confronted the question whether India may be seen as a settler colony. How was such a spirit born? As one possible beginning, I offer a creation myth for the birth of anthropological sensibility, located in a key moment of the Ramayana, when its tribal/lower‐caste poet‐author, Valmiki, begins to enunciate differently, after witnessing an act of human, settler violence.

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