I. Retrospect CIS Current Issue
The Social Change and Social Structure (or the Sociology) Unit has evolved out of the UNESCO's Asian Region Centre, which was merged with the IEG to form an Asian Research Centre in 1967. With the phasing out of UNESCO support, this Centre was downsized into the ‘Social Change and Social Structure’ Unit of the IEG in 1974, and has since been directly funded by the ICSSR's Maintenance and Development Grant to the Institute. The core faculty strength of the Unit has been declining steadily over time and is now down to three, which is a major constraint on the Unit’s capacity to contribute meaningfully to the overall research efforts of the IEG.
Over the last three decades, the Unit has conducted research on a wide range of topics that include:
• comparative study of development, especially its cultural and political aspects
• communalism and ethnic conflict
• rural transformation
• sociology of popular culture
• emergence of professionals and other middle class elites
• dynamics of religion, secularism and modernization
• changing functions of social institutions such as the family
• contemporary media networks
• gender relations
• social policy in respect to education, urbanisation and health
• cultural patronage
• social ecology and environment.
While work on other Asian societies was prominent at the time when the Asian Research Centre was active, the current research activities are primarily – but not exclusively – focused on India. The faculty have supervised nearly a dozen Ph.D. dissertations in Sociology, mainly for the University of Delhi.
II. Highlights of current and recent Unit initiatives :
• International Conference on Reviewing Theatre History : Disciplinary Agendas, Cultural Arenas, Institutions in South and South-East-Asia in collaboration with Asian Research Institute, NUS, Singapore, to be held at IEG between January 23-25, 2008.
• discussion sessions on Social Movements and the State, as part of the Expanding Freedom conference held at IEG in April 2007.
• symposium on the historical frameworks of current cultural policy interventions in India entitled, Cultural Policy and Democratisation, as part of the April 2007 conference at IEG.
• workshop on The Middle Classes in India: Identity, Citizenship and the public Sphere, organised in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley in March 2007
• national seminar on the Disciplinary Histories of Sociology and Social Anthropology in India - held in April 2000.
The seminar papers led to an edited volume titled Anthropology in the East: Founders of Indian Sociology and Anthropology in India, published in 2007.
This seminar also saw the formation of a new Research Committee on the Sociology of Knowledge under the auspices of the Indian Sociological Society, which is currently housed in the IEG.
• a symposium on the inclusion of caste in the 2001 Census - held in 1998.
All these events were very well attended, and have led to published work and reports. Currently, an ongoing study group on the theme of ‘Social Capital’ is being planned.
III. Agenda for 2003-2008
While continuing to work on these and related themes, ongoing research planned for the five year span, ending 2008, has included:
1. Marriage, the family and kinship structures, with particular emphasis on relations of the sexes. This research has addressed issues of matchmaking, marriage, family dynamics and family structures in a comparative Asian framework, and will focus on the impact on the family of state interventions, global information flows, and international migration.
In contrast to the emphasis hitherto on kinship structures, new work under this theme also focuses on contemporary marital practices in urban society to explore whether the meaning, content and lived experience of marriage is changing. Additionally research will empirically foreground marriage patterns and norms of the developing middle classes of India in order to enable a better understanding of ‘who the middle classes are’ and ‘the prevailing gender ideologies of the middle classes.’
2. Performance forms, patronage and vernacular culture: Work in this area has looked at the differentiation between 'high' and 'low' forms of Marathi theatre. It has examined the history and politics of contemporary patronage for the predominantly low-caste forms of the lavani and tamasha (which have had a long and evolving history of at least three centuries) within the context of the rise of the sangeet natak, which was key to the negotiation of upper-caste cultural dominance and middle-class Maharashtrian identity in the pre-1947 period.
3. Citizenship, identity and the public sphere: Work in this area explores the shifts in state-society relations in the context of economic liberalization. It focuses in particular on the role of the middle classes in reproducing structures of social exclusion, as institutionalized in state practices. It critically examines the effects of middle class mobilization and activism in transforming the public sphere, in terms of the wider quest for social justice.
4. Vernacular modernities, region and Indian sociology : A rich body of work on nineteenth century South Asia has shown how the remaking of regional linguistic spheres was key to the negotiation of Indian modernity. The contentious processes that led to the linguistic reorganization of states within the Indian Union after Independence further acknowledged the importance of these internally contested vernacular modernities to the construction of the relationship between region and nation. Noting that simultaneously the post-Independence period was also a critical period for disciplinary formation within Indian social science, work under this theme looks at the place of vernacular histories and regional hierarchies within the practices of Indian sociology, and explore the potential of the notion of regional sociologies for India.
Work initiated in this area includes:
• A research and translation project in South Asian theatre histories (1930-70), in collaboration with the Sangeet Natak Akademi, entitled Reviewing Disciplinary Agendas in Theatre Studies : Cultural Arenas, Policies, Institutions.
• A planned research network on Marginality and Regional Literary Spheres (1940-55) : Literary Sammelans, Publishing, Curricula seeking to map discursive and institutional shifts vis-à-vis three regional literary spheres, viz., Bangla, Marathi and Tamil for the critical years between 1940 and 1955.
4. Social ecology: This research theme explores the material and symbolic aspects of contestations over environment and development. It focuses on issues of resource rights, subaltern resistance and cultural identity in environmental conflicts in rural and urban India. It examines cultural constructions of nature as reflected in diverse discourses, ranging from that of wildlife conservation to ‘the world-class city’. Research under this theme relates environmental policies, projects and practices to the lives of subaltern peoples, and critically analyzes how the field of environmental sociology works as an uneven terrain of knowledge production and legitimation
5. Caste inequality and social policy: Work included preparing a detailed profile of the Indian social structure based on unit-level data now being made available by the NSSO in machine-readable formats; a context-sensitive study of the original rationale for the special policies for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes that will also evaluate to what extent this rationale needs modification today; a state- and region-wise economic profile of the Other Backward Castes, for which nation-wide data has recently become available; and a study of caste as a form of social and cultural capital.
6.Globalization: It is proposed to study the impact of globalisation on the spatial boundaries of cultural regions and communities in an effort to understand its differential impact on specific groups and particular dimensions of social life. Current research on globalization also engages with the transformation of marriage, sexuality and intimacy in modernizing and globalizing contexts to ask whether globalization is engendering new forms of oppression, hierarchy and inequality in marriage. New work under this theme will draw attention to the distinctive ways in which globalization has refigured the structures of authority within the space of the region.
III. Publications Programme of the Unit
Contributions to Indian Sociology
One of the main responsibilities of the Sociology Unit is the triannual journal, Contributions to Indian Sociology, which is an internationally reputed, refereed journal of South Asian Sociology and Social Anthropology. The journal was founded by the late Professor Louis Dumont in Paris in 1957. After it ceased publication in the mid-1960s, it was revived as a new series at the IEG in 1967, and is now published by Sage Publications, New Delhi. Apart from its regular issues, the journal also undertakes special issues on themes of contemporary interest, published in book form as part of an Occasional Studies series. There have been nine such volumes so far, the recent ones being on Social Reform, Sexuality and the State (1996); Tradition, Pluralism and Identity: In honour of T.N. Madan; and The Worlds of Indian Industrial Labour (both in 1999). Two further volumes are currently in press: Beyond Appearances: Visual Cultures and Ideologies in Modern India (for 2002), and Migration, Modernity and Social Transformation in South Asia (for 2003).
A special issue on Equality and Inequality : Identities, Institutions and Initiatives is being planned for early 2008.
Occasional Papers in Sociology series
Beginning in 1999, the Sociology faculty and affiliated sociologists have contributed to an ongoing series of occasional papers parallel to the IEG Working and Discussion Papers. Ten papers have been produced so far. The series is conceived as a means for disseminating pre-publication papers and current work-in-progress among the community of professional sociologists.
Publication Details under this theme