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Colonial Anthropology and the Decline of the Raj: Caste, Religion and Political Change in India in the Early Twentieth Century1

  • C. J. FULLER (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

In the colonial anthropology of India developed in connection with the decennial censuses in the late nineteenth century, caste and religion were major topics of enquiry, although caste was particularly important. Official anthropologists, mostly members of the Indian Civil Service, reified castes and religious communities as separate ‘things’ to be counted and classified. In the 1911 and later censuses, less attention was paid to caste, but three officials – E. A. Gait, E. A. H. Blunt and L. S. S. O'Malley – made significant progress in understanding the caste system by recognising and partly overcoming the problems of reification. In this period, however, there was less progress in understanding popular religion. The Morley-Minto reforms established separate Muslim electorates in 1909; communal representation was extended in 1921 by the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms and again by the 1935 Government of India Act, which also introduced reservations for the Untouchable Scheduled Castes. Gait and Blunt were involved in the Montagu-Chelmsford debates, and Blunt in those preceding the 1935 Act. In the twentieth century, the imperial government's most serious problems were the nationalist movement, mainly supported by the middle class, and religious communalism. But there were no ethnographic data on the middle class, while the data on popular religion showed that Hindus and Muslims generally did not belong to separate communities; anthropological enquiry also failed to identify the Untouchable castes satisfactorily. Thus, official anthropology became increasingly irrelevant to policy making and could no longer strengthen the colonial state.

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Footnotes
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1

For helpful discussions and critical comments on an earlier draft, I am particularly grateful to Johnny Parry, Peter Robb, Nate Roberts, and participants in a seminar at the Centre of South Asian Studies, Cambridge.

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References
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2 Cohn, Bernard S., ‘Notes on the History of the Study of Indian Society and Culture’ [1968], in An Anthropologist among the Historians and Other Essays (Delhi, 1987), p. 155.

3 All standard, modern histories of colonial India describe the politicisation of caste and religion: e.g., Robb, Peter, A History of India, 2nd ed. (Basingstoke, 2011), pp. 194197, 207-216, 232-234, 236-250. Only selected sources, mostly on caste, that are directly pertinent to this article are cited below, however. Early discussions include Ghurye, G.S., Caste and Race in India (London, 1932), chap. 8; Srinivas, M.N., ‘Caste in Modern India’, in Caste in Modern India and Other Essays (Bombay, 1962), chap. 1. In the literature on colonial knowledge, see especially Bayly, Susan, Caste, Society and Politics in India from the Eighteenth Century to the Modern Age (Cambridge, 1999), chap. 4; Bernard S. Cohn, ‘Notes’, ‘The Census, Social Structure and Objectification in South Asia’ [c. 1970], in An Anthropologist, chaps. 7, 10; Cohn, Bernard S., Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India (Princeton, 1996); Dirks, Nicholas B., Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India (Princeton, 2001), Chapters. 6, 11, 13; Gottschalk, Peter, Religion, Science, and Empire: Classifying Hinduism and Islam in British India (New York, 2013), chap. 5, which unusually discusses the post-1901 period; Inden, Ronald, Imagining India (Oxford, 1990); Metcalf, Thomas R., Ideologies of the Raj (Cambridge, 1995), Chapters. 4, 5.

4 Dirks, Nicholas B., Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001), p. 43.

5 C. J. Fuller, ‘Anthropologists and Viceroys: Colonial Knowledge and Policy Making in India, 1871-1911’, Modern Asian Studies, in press.

6 Ibid.

7 Report of the Census of Panjab 1881, i, Text, by D.C.J. Ibbetson (Lahore, 1883), Chapter 6; reprinted as Panjab Castes (Lahore, 1916).

8 Risley, H.H., The Tribes and Castes of Bengal: Anthropometric Data (Calcutta, 1891); The Tribes and Castes of Bengal: Ethnographic Glossary (Calcutta, 1892).

9 Census of India, 1901, i, India, pt. 1, Report, by H. H. Risley and E. A. Gait (Calcutta, 1903), Chapter 11; H. H. Risley, The People of India, 2nd ed., revised by W. Crooke (Calcutta, 1915).

10 See, e.g., W. Crooke, ‘Introduction’, in Risley, People, pp. xvi-xxi.

11 Lyall, Alfred C., ‘Natural Religion in India’ [1891], in Asiatic Studies: Religious and Social, ii (London, 1899), Chapter 5, p. 292.

12 E.g., Risley in Census, 1901, India, pp. 349-357; Risley, People, pp. 218-238.

13 Census of India, 1901, xv, Madras, pt. 1, Report, by W. Francis (Madras, 1902), p. 125.

14 O'Malley, L.S.S., Popular Hinduism: The Religion of the Masses (Cambridge, 1935), p. 37.

15 Ibid., p. 129.

16 Cohn, ‘Notes’, p. 154.

17 Census of India, 1901, xvii, The Punjab, Pt. 1, Report, by H. A. Rose (Simla, 1902), pp. xii, 337-338; cf. Rose, H.A., ‘On Caste in India’, Man, 8 (1908), p. 99.

18 Ibbetson, Panjab Castes, p. 31.

19 Ibid., p. 35.

20 Ibid., p. 36.

21 Census of India, 1901, xvi, The North-Western Provinces and Oudh, Pt. 1, Report, by R. Burn (Allahabad, 1902), pp. 208-210.

22 Census of India, 1901, vi, Bengal, Pt. 1, Report, by E.A. Gait (Calcutta, 1902), p. 347.

23 Census of India, 1901, i, India, Administrative Volume by E.A. Gait (Calcutta, 1902), App. VIII, Circular 3, p. lxxvii, and Circular 8.

24 Caste File III (1900), p. 101, Sir Herbert Risley Papers, Mss Eur D191, Private Papers in Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections, British Library (hereafter APAC, BL).

25 Caste File I (1900), pp. 9, 89, 94, 98, 100, 103-104, 106-107, 110, 113, 178, 186-187, 197, 208, 215, Risley Papers, Mss Eur D189; Caste File III (1900), pp. 23-24, 45.

26 Census, 1901, Bengal, p. 366.

27 Ibid., pp. 367-368.

28 Ibid., pp. 369-373.

29 Ibid., pp. 368-369.

30 Ibid., pp. 351, 353.

31 Ibid., p. 354, italics added.

32 Risley, H.H., Manual of Ethnography for India (Calcutta, 1903), p. 12, to which Gait must have had access in advance; Census, 1901, India, pp. 517-518; Risley, People, pp. 68-69; Senart, Émile, Les Castes dans l'Inde [1896], 2nd ed. (Paris, 1927), p. 35; Caste in India, trans. E. Denison Ross (London, 1930), p. 20.

33 Senart, Caste, p. 89; Les Castes, p. 109.

34 Gait, E.A., ‘Caste’, in Hastings, James (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, iii (Edinburgh, 1910), pp. 230239; Census of India, 1911, i, India, Pt. 1, Report, by E.A. Gait (Calcutta, 1913), p. 367.

35 Census, 1901, Bengal, pp. 359-364.

36 Gait, ‘Caste’, p. 234; Census, 1911, India, pp. 381, 387; E.A. Gait, ‘The Indian Census of 1911: Ethnography and Occupations’, Journal of the Society of Arts, 62, June 5, 1914, p. 631.

37 Census, 1911, India, pp. 386-7.

38 Gait, ‘Indian Census of 1911’, p. 630.

39 Census of India, 1931, i, India, pt. 1, Report, by J.H. Hutton (Delhi, 1933), pp. 471-501; reprinted in Hutton, J.H., Caste in India: Its Nature, Function, and Origins [1946], 4th ed. (Bombay, 1963), App. A.

40 Census of India, 1941, i, India, pt. 1, Tables, by M.W.M. Yeatts (Delhi, 1943), Main table 13, pp. 98-101.

41 Jones, Kenneth W., ‘Religious Identity and the Indian Census’, in Barrier, N. Gerald (ed.), The Census in British India: New Perspectives (New Delhi, 1981), pp. 9193; Mendelsohn, Oliver and Vicziany, Marika, The Untouchables: Subordination, Poverty and the State in Modern India (Cambridge, 1998), p. 28.

42 Census, 1911, India, pp. 116-117.

43 Census of India, 1911, xv, United Provinces, pt. 1, Report, by E. A. H. Blunt (Allahabad, 1912), pp. 105-106, 120.

44 Ibid., p. 119.

45 Ibid., p. 121.

46 Ibid., pp. 140-141.

47 Census of India, 1911, v, Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, pt. 1, Report, by L. S. S. O'Malley (Calcutta, 1913), pp. 199-200.

48 Ibid., pp. 227-229.

49 Ibid., p. 251.

50 Census, 1911, India, p. 118

51 Gait, ‘Indian Census of 1911’, Chairman's comment, p. 634.

52 Gottschalk, Religion, pp. 182-183.

53 Census, 1911, United Provinces, pp. 332-345.

54 Ibid., p. 332. Dumont, Louis, in Homo Hierarchicus: The Caste System and Its Implications [1967] (London, 1970), p. 292, noted that Blunt mentioned jajmani before Wiser, W. H. wrote The Hindu Jajmani System (Lucknow, 1936), usually assumed to be the first account.

55 Blunt, E.A.H., The Caste System of Northern India (London, 1931), pp. v-vi; Crooke, W., The Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh (Calcutta, 1896).

56 Blunt, Caste System, pp. 1-5.

57 Ibid., Chapters 3-6, 12, 13.

58 Ibid., Chapters 7-11.

59 Ibid., Chapters 14-16.

60 Ibid., p. 8.

61 Béteille, André, ‘A Note on the Referents of Caste’ [1964], in Castes: Old and New (Bombay, 1969), p. 150.

62 Dumont, Homo Hierarchicus, pp. 41-42, 61-64.

63 Evans-Pritchard, E.E., The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People (Oxford, 1940).

64 Census, 1911, Bengal, pp. 451-95.

65 O'Malley, L.S.S., Indian Caste Customs (Cambridge, 1932), pp. 46, 19-20.

66 O'Malley, Popular Hinduism, p. 74.

67 O'Malley, Indian Caste Customs, chaps. 2-9.

68 O'Malley, L.S.S., India's Social Heritage (Oxford, 1934).

69 O'Malley, L.S.S., ‘The Hindu Social System’, in O'Malley (ed.), Modern India and the West: A Study of the Interaction of their Civilizations (London, 1941), Chapter 10, especially pp. 354-355.

70 Mandelbaum, David G., Society in India (Berkeley, 1970), pp. 56, 12.

71 O'Malley, Indian Caste Customs, p. viii.

72 Ibid., p. 21.

73 Dumont, Homo Hierarchicus, p. 63.

74 See the numerous entries for Blunt and O'Malley in the index of Homo Hierarchicus.

75 See n. 39.

76 On the reforms, see Robb, P.G., The Government of India and Reform: Policies towards Politics and the Constitution, 1916-1921 (London, 1976), Introduction and Chapters 1-4; also Rumbold, Algernon, Watershed in India, 1914-1922 (London, 1979), Chapters 1-9.

77 Gait to Chelmsford, 20 August 1916, in ‘Goal of British Rule in India’, no. 7, Lord Chelmsford Papers, Mss Eur E264/5, Private Papers in APAC, BL.

78 Government of Bihar and Orissa to Government of India, 31 October 1917, in Home Department, Political Proceedings, no. 575, IOR/P/CONF/43 BL, pp. 287-309, at p. 288.

79 Government of Bihar and Orissa to Government of India, 10 November 1918, in Despatch on Indian Constitutional Reforms, 5 March 1919, IOR/L/PJ/9/3 BL, File 211, 1919, Enclosure 25, pp. 263-280, at pp. 264-5.

80 Minutes of Conference of Heads of Provinces, 13-18 January 1919, IOR/L/PJ/9/3 BL, File 114, 1919, ff. 346-356; Chelmsford to Montagu, 15 January 1919, Montagu to Chelmsford, 22 January 1919, Chelmsford Papers, Mss Eur E264/5; Robb, Government, pp. 103-104; Rumbold, Watershed, p. 155.

81 On the riots, see Pandey, Gyanendra, ‘Rallying round the Cow: Sectarian Strife in the Bhojpuri Region, c. 1888-1917’, in Guha, Ranajit (ed.), Subaltern Studies, ii (Delhi, 1983), pp. 8796; The Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India (Delhi, 1990), pp. 57-60, 167-175, 189-197; Rumbold, Watershed, pp. 103-104; also O'Malley, Popular Hinduism, pp. 236-237.

82 Gait to Chelmsford, 9 October 1917, Chelmsford Papers, Mss Eur E264/19.

83 Government of India to Local Governments, 11 December 1917, in Home Department, Political Proceedings, no. 579, with Enclosure, App. F, ‘Report of a Committee of the Government of the United Provinces (Allahabad, 1917)’: Apps. IV, ‘Proposals Regarding the Electorate’; V, ‘Communal Representation’, IOR/P/CONF/43, BL pp. 329-358, 424-507; cf. Rumbold, Watershed, pp. 111-112.

84 Government of Bihar and Orissa to Government of India, 31 October 1917, in Home Department, Political Proceedings, no. 575, IOR/P/CONF/43, BL, pp. 287-309, at p. 296.

85 Government of Bihar and Orissa to Government of India, December 1917, in Home Department, Political Proceedings, no. 595, IOR/P/CONF/43, BL, pp. 647-659, at p. 653.

86 Government of India to Secretary of State, Despatch on Councils Reforms, 1 October 1908, John Morley Papers, Mss Eur D573/33, ff. 5-22, at p. 14, in APAC, BL.

87 Fuller, ‘Anthropologists and Viceroys’.

88 Blunt, E. A. H., The I. C. S.: The Indian Civil Service (London, 1937), pp. 119120.

89 O'Malley, L. S. S., The Indian Civil Service, 1601-1930 (London, 1931), pp. 148149.

90 Blunt, I. C. S., pp. 240-242.

91 Galanter, Marc, Competing Equalities: Law and the Backward Classes in India (Berkeley, 1984), pp. 122131; for an overview, see Mendelsohn and Vicziany, The Untouchables, Chapters. 1, 3.

92 Report of the Indian Statutory Commission, i, Survey (London, 1930), pp. 37-40.

93 Statutory Commission, xvi, Selections from Memoranda and Oral Evidence by Non-Officials (Part I), pp. 37-47, 52-61.

94 Report of the Indian Franchise Committee, i, (London, 1932), pp. 114-115; Hutton, Caste in India, App. A, pp. 193-194.

95 Ibid., p. 195.

96 Franchise Committee, i, pp. 113-114.

97 Census, 1911, India, pp. 116-117; B. R. Ambedkar, ‘Note on the Depressed Classes’ (18 April 1932), Indian Franchise Committee, File IV, Depressed Classes, IOR/Q/IFC/51, BL.

98 E.A.H. Blunt, ‘Note Explaining the Origin and Nature of Depressed and Backward Classes’ (3 March 1932), Franchise Committee, ii, pp. 303-330.

99 B.R. Ambedkar, ‘Note’ (18 April 1932), IOR/Q/IFC/51, BL; ‘Note on the Depressed Classes’ (1 May 1932), Franchise Committee, i, pp. 210-220.

100 Galanter, Competing Equalities, p. 130.

101 Blunt, Caste System, pp. 336-338; cf. O'Malley, Indian Caste Customs, p. 179.

102 Blunt, Caste System, pp. 333-336.

103 Franchise Committee, ii, p. 314.

104 Blunt, The I. C. S., pp. 112-114.

105 Ibid., p. 250.

106 ‘Report of the Indian Civil Service Probationary Committee’ (chaired by Atul Chatterjee), 1936, IOR/L/SG/7/87, BL.

107 ‘Report of the I. C. S. (Indian Social Welfare) Committee’, 1937, IOR/L/SG/7/97, BL.

108 Blunt, E.A.H. (ed.), Social Service in India: An Introduction to Some Social and Economic Problems of the Indian People (London, 1938), Chapter 1 (‘The Environment and Distribution of the Indian People’), Chapter 2 (‘The Structure of the Indian People’).

109 Mudaliar to F. S. Stewart, 27 January 1939; Stewart to Mudaliar, 4 February 1939, IOR/L/SG/7/99, BL.

110 G.H.G. Anderson to F. W. H. Smith, 9 May 1939; reviews in National Herald, 9 April 1939, and Hindustan Times, 7 August 1939, IOR/L/I/653, file 449, ff. 53, 33, 35, BL.

111 Blunt, Social Service, pp. 60-61, 75.

112 Papers on the Selection and Training of Candidates for the Indian Civil Service (London, 1876), pp. 70-78 (Risley), 143-151 (Ibbetson).

113 Ibbetson, Panjab Castes, p. v.

114 Blunt, I. C. S., p. 262.

115 Gottschalk, Religion, pp. 218-129.

1 For helpful discussions and critical comments on an earlier draft, I am particularly grateful to Johnny Parry, Peter Robb, Nate Roberts, and participants in a seminar at the Centre of South Asian Studies, Cambridge.

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