Tuesday, 23 February 2021

The Development of Teaching and Research in Sociology in India

 Socius, Applied Sociology Students Collective, DSSWA organised the guest lecture ‘The Development of Teaching and Research in Sociology in India’ by Prof R S Deshpande on 23rd February 2021. Prof Desphande is the former Director of ISEC and a Rajiv Gandhi National Fellow of ICSSR. He has worked with various policy bodies of the Government of India and the Government of Karnataka. He has also been a consultant to various projects of the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Land Equity International and was the Vice-Chairman of the WTO Cell of Karnataka.

The welcome speech and introductory note were delivered by Anshu Pal.

Dr Deshpande started out by outlining the development of sociology by the founding fathers. The depth of observations, the strength of the theory, the conceptualisation of sociological terms by early scholars are what laid the foundation for the discipline of sociology. He then shifted the focus to the trends and development of sociology in India. Prof. Deshpande is of the opinion that discussing the works of prominent sociologists in India chronologically does not reveal trends in the discipline, rather it is more important to look at the development change in the components of sociology over the years through the conceptualisation and development of concepts.

Three typologies of trends mentioned by Dr Deshpande are:

  • Through the schools of sociology
  • Through gurus - initiators and followers
  • Through conceptualisations, which would be the primary focus of his talk

British and American were the two international schools of thought. Most of the early sociology students in India, who later became early generation sociologists did their PhDs in the USA and Britain, and thus these schools had a great influence on Indian schools. This is similar to the trend seen in other disciplines in India, like economics There are three prominent Indian schools of sociology. The first is the Bombay School, which was initiated by Patrick Geddes who held a position in Sociology and Civics at Bombay University from 1919 to 1925. The second school is the Delhi School of Economics which had an amalgam of social sciences. The emphasis initially here was on villages, village economy, rural sociology. The third school is the Lucknow School started by Radhakamal Mukherjee. He had a deep interest in economics and sociology. He made attempts to bring fieldwork and empiricism into sociology, long before Srivinas did. Prof Desphande then talked about how prominent sociologists had specific methods and areas they specialised in, and often their students would be ardent followers of these methods, thereby creating a ‘cult’. He believes that colonisation, cult creation, and politicisation are present in every social science. He further discussed trends through conceptualisation, detailing them in order.

Prof Deshpande concluded by emphasising the need for Indianisation of sociology, Indianised methodologies, an understanding of Indian societies from an insider’s perspective, and the need to teach both sides of a concept - both its merits and its criticisms as well. The highly informative lecture was followed by an interesting Q&A session where attendees asked questions on the role sociology can play in policymaking and transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary trends in sociology.

The session was concluded with a Vote of Thanks delivered by Anshu Pal.

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