The Sociology of South Asia: Postcolonial Legacies, Global Imaginaries

Gowri Vijayakumar, Brandeis University
Smitha Radhakrishnan, Wellesley College

This paper traces the genealogy of a new sociology of South Asia and outlines the field’s key defining features and themes. We argue that, in the last two decades, there has emerged a critical mass of sociological research on South Asia that integrates the geographic specificity of South Asia with a global theoretical and historical orientation. This scholarship builds on deep attention to the specificity of geographic context, a focus that requires familiarity with history, culture, and politics and knowledge of local language. Simultaneously, it engages theoretically with global sociological conversations around gender, sexuality, class, race/caste, development, and globalization, and centers colonial, postcolonial, and post-9/11 histories of power and domination. To explain how this approach came into being, we review the intellectual formation of the new sociology of South Asia at the intersection of sociological traditions within the subcontinent and in European and North American sociology. We trace the sociology of South Asia historically, through classical sociology’s approach to the subcontinent as a contrast case to European modernity, and colonial and postcolonial sociological scholarship within the subcontinent under developmental and liberalized state regimes. We map how global political shifts--and the strategic interests of U.S. policy in funding the study of South Asia in the postwar, Cold War, and later, post-9/11 periods--set up the possibility of particular intellectual trajectories that diverged from both classical sociology and the approaches to the study of society within the subcontinent. In doing so, we map out a trajectory for decolonizing and deparochializing sociology from and through the study of South Asia.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 62. Decolonizing Sociology From South Asia