HAR is pleased to announce a recent release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article (in English) on ethnography and racial theory in the British India in the late 19th century.
Fuller, Chris, 2022. “Ethnography and Racial Theory in the British Raj: The Anthropological Work of H. H. Risley”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.
The systematic anthropology of British India developed alongside the decennial censuses, which started in 1871–2, and its declared purpose was always both ‘scientific’ and ‘administrative’ : to contribute to modern, European scientific knowledge and also to strengthen and improve British rule. Various labels have been adopted in the literature for colonial anthropologists in India, including ‘official anthropologists’, a term that usefully indicates both their status as officials and the fact that their work – ‘official anthropology’ – was mostly undertaken on behalf of the government. From the middle of the nineteenth century until the First World War, official anthropologists had a virtual monopoly in the field, because very few Indians and very few academics carried out anthropological research in India. The majority of them belonged to the Indian Civil Service (ICS), the elite administrative corps of the British raj, whose members were known as ‘civilians’, and the remainder were members of other government services or army officers. Sir Herbert Risley, a civilian who always signed himself ‘H. H. Risley’, was British India’s pre-eminent official anthropologist, though before 1900 or thereabouts he often called his field ‘ethnology’, rather than ‘anthropology’. This biographical article focuses almost entirely on Risley’s anthropological work and only briefly mentions his duties as a civil servant, which are described in the forthcoming book Anthropologist and Imperialist : H. H. Risley and British India, 1873-1911 on which this article is based.
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