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The Bengali Pharaoh: Upper-Caste Aryanism, Pan-Egyptianism, and the Contested History of Biometric Nationalism in Twentieth-Century Bengal

  • Projit Bihari Mukharji (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

Extant South Asian histories of race, and more specifically biometrics, focus almost exclusively upon the colonial era and especially the nineteenth century. Yet an increasing number of ethnographic accounts observe that Indian scientists have enthusiastically embraced the resurgent raciology engendered by genomic research into human variation. What is sorely lacking is a historical account of how raciology fared in the late colonial and early postcolonial periods, roughly the period between the decline of craniometry and the rise of genomics. It is this history that I explore in this article. I argue that anthropometry, far from being a purely colonial science, was adopted by Indian nationalists quite early on. Various distinctive shades of biometric nationalism publicly competed from the 1920s onward. To counter any sense that biometric nationalism was teleologically inevitable, I contrast it with a radical alternative called “craftology” that emerged on the margins of formal academia amongst scholars practicing what I call “vernacular anthropology.” Craftology and biometric nationalism continued to compete, contrast, and selectively entangle with each other until almost the end of the twentieth century.

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References
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2 Benjamin Ruha, “A Lab of Their Own: Genomic Sovereignty as Postcolonial Science Policy,Policy and Society 28 (2009): 341–55.

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5 For an exception, see Mukharji Projit Bihari, “From Serosocial to Sanguinary Identities: Caste, Transnational Race Science and the Shifting Metonymies of Blood Broup B, India c. 1918–1960,Indian Economic and Social History Review 51, 2 (2014): 143–76.

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10 The Varendra Research Society was an enormously influential and productive scholarly association that conducted several archaeological surveys and excavations, besides publishing critical editions of old Sanskrit texts and a number of academic monographs and articles. It also established a museum of local antiquities. See Saifuddin Chowdhury, “Varendra Research Society,” Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh: http://en.banglapedia.org/index.php?title=Varendra_Research_Society (accessed 21 Jan. 2016).

11 Chanda, Indo-Aryan Races, ix–x.

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17 On the Morton-Gould controversy and its problems, see Weisberg Michael, “Remeasuring Man,Development and Evolution 16, 3 (2014): 166–78.

18 Majumdar D. N., “Bengal Anthropometric Survey, 1945: A Statistical Study,Sankhyā: The Indian Journal of Statistics 19, 3/4 (1958): 201408 .

19 Majumder Partha P., “People of India: Biological Diversity and Affinities,” in Balasubramanian D. and Rao N. Appaji, eds., The Indian Human Heritage (Hyderabad: United Press, 1998), 4559 .

20 Mahalanobis, “Analysis of Race-Mixture,” 324.

21 Sinha D. P. and Coon Carleton S., “Biraja Sankar Guha, 1894–1961,American Anthropologist 65, 2 (1963): 382–87.

22 B. S. Guha, “Application for Admission to Candidacy in a Degree,” Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University Archives, UAV 161.201.10, box 42.

23 Sinha and Coon, “Biraja Sankar Guha.”

24 Rao C. Radhakrishna, “Mahalanobis Era in Statistics,Sankhyā: The Indian Journal of Statistics, Series B (1961–2002) 35 (1973): 1226 .

25 Indian Genome Variation Database Portal: www.igvdb.res.in (accessed 12 July 2016).

26 Majumder, “People of India.”

27 El-Haj, “Genetic Reinscription.”

28 Lipphardt Veronika, “Geographical Distribution Patterns of Various Genes: Genetic Studies of Human Variation after 1945,Studies in the History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 47 (2001): 5061 .

29 Reardon Jenny, Race to the Finish: Identity and Governance in an Age of Genomics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 65.

30 For blood groups in India, see Mukharji Projit Bihari, “From Serosocial to Sanguinary Identities: Caste, Transnational Race Science and the Shifting Metonymies of Blood Group B, India c. 1918–1960,Indian Economic and Social History Review 51, 2 (2014): 146–73. For a more global account of blood groups, see Bangham Jenny, “Blood Groups and Human Groups: Collecting and Calibrating Genetic Data after World War Two,Studies in the History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 47 (2014): 7486 .

31 Anderson Warwick, “Teaching ‘Race’ at Medical School: Social Scientists on the Margin,Social Studies of Science 38, 5 (2008): 785800 .

32 See Kowal Emma, “Orphan DNA: Indigenous Samples, Ethical Biovalue and Postcolonial Science,Social Studies of Science 43, 4 (2013): 577–97; Gissis Snait B, “When Is ‘Race’ a Race? 1946–2003,Studies in the History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 39, 4 (2008): 437–50; de Chadarevian Soraya, “Chromosome Surveys of Human Populations: Between Epidemiology and Anthropology,Studies in the History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 47 (2014): 8796 .

33 Projit Bihari Mukharji, “Profiling the Profiloscope.”

34 Atul Sur, Bangla O Bangalir Bibartan (Calcutta: Sahityalok, n.d.), “Lekhak Parichiti.”

35 Sur Atul, Bangalir Nritattwik Parichay (Calcutta: Jignasa, 1977), 10.

36 Ibid., 38.

37 Chanda, Indo-Aryan Races, 73.

38 Ibid., 44.

39 Ibid., 180.

40 Biraja Sankar Guha, “The Racial Basis of the Caste System of India,” PhD thesis, Harvard University, 1924, 45.

41 Ibid., 121.

42 Ibid., 121.

43 Ibid., 103.

44 Ibid., 234.

45 Ibid., 85, 103.

46 Sur, Bangalir Nritattwik Parichay, 10.

47 Mahalanobis, “Revision of Risley's Anthropometric Data,” 104.

48 Ballantyne Tony, Orientalism and Race: Aryanism in the British Empire (Basingstoke: Palgrave McMillan, 2002), 169.

49 Mahalanobis, “Analysis of Race Mixture,” 311.

50 Mitra Asok, “Preface,” in Dutt Gurusaday, The Folk Dances of Bengal (Calcutta: Birendrasaday Dutt, 1941), vivii .

51 For a recent history of the Bratachari Movement, see Adhikary Sayantani, “The Bratachari Movement and the Invention of a ‘Folk Tradition,’South Asia 38, 4 (2015): 656–70.

52 Dutt Gurusaday, Banglar Lokshilpa O Loknritya (Calcutta: Chhatim Books, 2000).

53 Ibid., 8–9.

54 Ballantyne, Orientalism and Race, 169–87.

55 Trautmann Thomas R., Languages and Nations: Conversations in Colonial South India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 186211 .

56 Dutt, Banglar Lokshilpa, 3.

57 Chakrabarty Dipesh, “Romantic Archive: Literature and the Politics of Identity in Bengal,Critical Inquiry 30, 3 (2004): 654–82.

58 Sen Dineshchandra, Brihat Banga: Suprachin Kal Haite Palashir Juddha (Calcutta: Calcutta University, 1935), ii.vi.

59 Ibid., xiii.

60 Ibid., ii.viii.

61 Tagore Abanindranath, Banglar Brata (Calcutta: Biswabharati, 1995 [1943]), 89 .

62 Radhakrishnan Sarvepalli, “Foreword,” in Suniti Kumar Chatterji, Africanism: The African Personality (Calcutta: Bengali Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1960), v.

63 Chatterji Suniti Kumar, Africanism: The African Personality (Calcutta: Bengali Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1960), viii.

64 Ibid., 3.

65 Adi Hakim and Sherwood Marika, Pan-African History: Political Figures from Africa and the Diaspora since 1787 (London: Routledge, 2003): 4043 .

66 Datta Angsu, Utthita Africa (Calcutta: Anandadhara Prakashan, 1967), 127–42.

67 James Leslie, George Padmore and Decolonization from Below: Pan-Africanism, the Cold War, and the End of Empire (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 55, 84, 90, 98, 109.

68 Datta, Utthita Africa, Bhumika [Preface].

69 Mitter Partha, The Triumph of Modernism in India: India's Artists and the Avant-Garde, 1922–1947 (London: Reaktion Books, 2007), 33.

70 Ludden David, “Orientalist Empiricism: Transformations of Colonial Knowledge,” in Breckenridge Carol Appadurai, ed., Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993), 250–78.

71 Mantena Karuna, Alibis of Empire: Henry Maine and the Ends of Liberal Imperialism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), 155.

72 For the history of gazetteers, see Mukharji Projit Bihari, “In-Disciplining Jwarasur: The Folk/Classical Divide and the Transmateriality of Fevers in Colonial Bengal,Indian Economic and Social History Review 50, 3 (2013): 261–88.

73 Naithani Sadhana, The Story-Time of the British Empire: Colonial and Postcolonial Folkloristics (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2010); Bhadra Gautam, Nyara Bot-tolaye Jaye Ko Bar? (Calcutta: Chhatim, 2011).

74 Chakrabarty Dipesh, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000); Klaus Peter J. and Korom Frank J., Folkloristics and Indian Folklore (Udupi: Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College, 1991), 6063 .

75 Sarkar Sumit, Writing Social History (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999).

76 Sengoopta Chandak, The Rays before Satyajit: Creativity and Modernity in Colonial India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2016), 220, 245.

77 Srinivas MN, Collected Essays (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2002).

78 There is some discrepancy in the literature regarding who was the first professor of anthropology in Calcutta. Srinivas for instance, suggests that it was K. P. Chattopadhyay. Srinivas MN and Panini MN, “The Development of Sociology and Social Anthropology in India”, Sociological Bulletin 22, 2 (1973): 179215 . I have followed Sankar Sen Gupta in accepting S. C. Mitra as the first. Sen Gupta does, however, say that, owing to persistent ill health, Mitra's impact on the department was small. Gupta Sankar Sen, Folklorists of Bengal: Life Sketches and Biographical Notes (Calcutta: Indian Publications, 1965), 54, and see 53–88.

79 Dasgupta Sangeeta, “Recasting the Oraons and the ‘Tribe’: Saratchandra Roy's Anthropology,” in Uberoi Patricia, Sundar Nandini, and Deshpande Satish, eds., Anthropology in the East: Founders of Indian Sociology and Anthropology (Calcutta: Seagull, 2007), 132–71.

80 Chakrabarty Dipesh, Habitations of Modernity: Essays in the Wake of Subaltern Studies (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 37.

81 Bose Neilesh, Recasting the Region: Language, Culture and Islam in Colonial Bengal (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014); Klaus and Korom, Folkloristics, 12.

82 Ibid., 49.

83 Ibid., 66–68.

84 Crook David Paul, Grafton Elliot Smith, Egyptology and the Diffusion of Culture: A Biographical Perspective (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2012), 79.

85 Blackburn Stuart H., Print, Folklore, and Nationalism in Colonial South India (Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan, 2006), 186.

86 Kuklick Henrika, The Savage Within: A Social History of British Anthropology, 1885–1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 124.

87 See for instance, Roy Sarat Chandra, “A Note on the Kolarian Beliefs about Neolithic Celts,Journal of the Anthropological Society of Bombay 14, 6 (1907): 783–90.

88 Crook, Grafton Elliot Smith, 28, 30–31, 59.

89 Colla Elliott, Conflicted Antiquities: Egyptology, Egyptomania, Egyptian Modernity (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007), 21.

90 Gange David, Dialogues with the Dead: Egyptology in British Culture and Religion, 1822–1922 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013); Colla, Conflicted Antiquities; Ambridge Lindsay J., “Imperialism and Racial Geography in James Henry Breasted's Ancient Times, a History of the Early World,Journal of Egyptian History 5 (2012): 1233 ; Meskell Lynn, Object Worlds in Ancient Egypt: Material Biographies Past and Present (Oxford: Berg, 2004).

91 Princep James, ed., Prachin Itihas Samuchchaya: An Epitome of Ancient History (Calcutta: Calcutta School Book Society's Press, 1830).

92 Manning J. G., The Last Pharaohs: Egypt under the Ptolemies, 305–330 BC (Princeton: Princeton University of Press, 2010), 41; King Richard, Orientalism and Religion: Post-Colonial Theory and the ‘Mystic East’ (London: Routledge, 1999), 119.

93 Trautmann, Aryans, 15.

94 Robinson's Grammar of History (no author provided) (Calcutta: Indigenous Literary Club, 1832); Blumhardt J. F., Catalogue of Bengali Printed Books in the Library of the British Museum (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1886), 54.

95 Long James, Descriptive Catalogue of Bengali Works (Calcutta: Sanders, Cones & Co., 1855), 25.

96 Colla, Conflicted Antiquities, 27.

97 Mitra Shyamlal, Mishor Jatri Bangali (Calcutta: Adityakumar Chattopadhyay, 1884), i.

98 Ray Dinendrakumar, Pishach Purohit (Meherpur: Dinendrakumar Ray, 1910), 50.

99 Ibid., 99.

100 Gershoni Israel and Jankowski James P, Egypt, Islam and the Arabs: The Search for Egyptian Nationhood, 1900–1930 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 164.

101 Ibid., 165.

102 “The Story of Kantara,” Amrita Bazar Patrika, 19 Feb. 1915: 4.

103 U. K. Mitter, “Minerva Theatre,” Amrita Bazar Patrika, 23 Dec. 1919: 9.

104 U. K. Mitter, “Minerva Theatre,” Amrita Bazar Patrika, 16 Aug. 1919: 3. The last advertisement for Mishar Kumari that I have been able to trace appeared in Amrita Bazar Patrika, 2 Dec. 1922: 3.

105 “Remarkable Egyptian Discovery: Last Tomb of Pharaoh,” Leader, 25 Dec. 1922: 4.

106 Tagore Rabindranath, Creative Unity (New York: Macmillan, 1922), 6061 .

107 Ratnam Malladi Venkata, Rama, The Greatest Pharaoh of Egypt (Rajahmundry: n.p., 1934).

108 Roy Hemendrakumar, Morar Mrityu (Calcutta: Eastern Law House, 1939).

109 Roy Hemendrakumar, “ Pepir Dakshin Pad,” in Dutta Gita, ed., Hemendrakumar Roy, vol. 26 (Asia Publishing Company, Calcutta, 2013), 125–30.

110 Mitra A., ed., Tribes and Castes of West Bengal (Calcutta: West Bengal Government Press, 1953).

111 K. P. Chattopadhyay, “The Racial Composition of the Bengalees”; and Sengupta Sailendra Nath, “The Racial Composition of the Bengalees—A Further Note,” both in Mitra A., ed., Tribes and Castes of West Bengal (Calcutta: West Bengal Government Press, 1953), 365–74, and 375–89, respectively.

112 Mitra, Tribes and Castes, 390–405.

113 Ray Sudhansu Kumar, “The Artisan Castes of West Bengal and Their Crafts,” in Mitra A., ed., Tribes and Castes of West Bengal (Calcutta: West Bengal Government Press, 1953), 293350 .

114 A. Mitra, “Note”: n.p.

115 Ray, “Artisan Castes,” 301.

116 Ibid., 306.

117 Ray Sudhansu Kumar, Prehistoric India and Ancient Egypt: Artistic, Linguistic and Political Relations, Revealed by the Bengali Traditional Documents (New Delhi: Cambridge Book and Stationery Store (1956), 12.

118 Ibid., 3.

119 Ibid.

120 Ibid., Foreword.

121 Mitra Amalendu, Rarher Samskriti O Dharmathakur (Calcutta: Firma KL Mukhopadhyay, 1972), 51, 94.

122 Ray, Prehistoric India, 7, 8.

123 McNamara Robert, Britain, Nasser and the Balance of Power in the Middle East, 1952–1977 (London: Taylor & Francis, 2003), 42.

124 Zachariah Benjamin, Nehru (London: Routledge, 2004), 222.

125 Cooney John D., “Sudhansu Kumar Ray,Artibus Asiae 20, 2/3 (1957), 229.

126 Ray Sudhansu Kumar, The Ritual Art of the Bratas of Bengal (Calcutta: Firma KL Mukhopadhyay, 1961).

127 Mitra, Rarher Samskriti.

128 Ibid., 51, 94.

129 Das Rahul Peter, “Some Remarks on the Bengali Deity Dharma: Its Cult and Study,Anthropos 78, 5/6 (1983): 661700 , 665.

130 Mallick Sriharsa, Prasanga Lokchitrakala (Calcutta: Pustak Bipani, 1985).

131 Kayal Akshaykumar, Rupramer Dharmamangal (Calcutta: Bharbi, 1986): ou.

132 Bhowmick Suhridkumar, Arya Rahasya (Mecheda: Maramburu Press, 1990), 5860 .

133 Santra Tarapada, Pashchimbanger Lokshilpa O Shilpasamaj (Calcutta: Sarkar Enterprise, 2000).

134 Haldar Narottam, Gangaridi: Alochona O Porjalochona (Calcutta: Dey Book Store, 1988), 85 (my italics).

135 Trautmann, Languages and Nations, 1–41.

136 Indian Genome Variation Database Portal; Jenkins Laura Dudley, “Another ‘People of India’ Project: Colonial and National Anthropology,Journal of Asian Studies 62, 4 (2003): 1143–70.

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