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Autobiography of an ArchiveA Scholar's Passage to India$
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Nicholas Dirks

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231169677

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231169677.001.0001

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The Policing of Tradition

The Policing of Tradition

Colonialism and Anthropology in Southern India

Chapter:
(p.132) 6 The Policing of Tradition
Source:
Autobiography of an Archive
Author(s):

Nicholas B. Dirks

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231169677.003.0007

This chapter explores the connection between colonialism and anthropology in southern India by focusing on the controversial ritual known as hookswinging. It begins by looking at the controversies over whether or not—and if so how—to suppress hookswinging as well as many of the underlying assumptions of official anthropology about structure and agency, custom and tradition, religion and ritual practice, and the objective provenance of anthropological inquiry. The chapter then considers some of the footnotes of colonial ethnography, along with the institutional links between anthropological knowledge and the apparatuses of British colonial power. It notes how hookswinging became a symbol of British commitment to civilizational reform as well as that of the crisis of enlightened colonial rule, and the concerns that arose about the victimization of colonial subjects. The chapter also discusses the meanings of hookswinging and how they were transformed in rather complex ways during the nineteenth century. Finally it analyzes hookswinging in relation to consent and coercion, anthropology and the police, barbarism and civilization.

Keywords:   colonialism, anthropology, India, hookswinging, custom, tradition, religion, ritual, ethnography, barbarism

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