Author: Thomas R Trautmann
Publisher: Sage Publications
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8170366429
When the British became rulers of Bengal they suddenly needed to answer a variety of questions like: Who are the Indians? What is their place in the world? What is their relations with us? Meticulously researched and carefully argued, this book brings to bear expertise both in anthropology and Indology.
When the British became rulers of Bengal they suddenly needed to answer a variety of questions like: Who are the Indians? What is their place in the world? What is their relation to us? The Sanskritists, such as William Jones, who led the discussion of the ethnology of India at that time, came up with the surprising answer (based on the idea of the family relationship of the Indo-European group of languages) that Indians and their British rulers were kin to each other. Resistance to this unprecedented notion gathered force in the nineteenth century through the emerging race science of that period.
Thomas Trautmann traces these developments to their culmination in the compromise between the competing claims of language and complexion in what he calls the racial theory of Indian civilization. This theory – which provides a facile answer to the so-called contradiction of civilization among dark-skinned Indians-dominates the historical narrative of India to this day. It redefined the Aryan concept in narrowly white racial terms, thus giving the concept an exclusionary sense which rendered it serviceable to the politics of racial hatred.
Thomas Trautmann challenges this racial hypothesis through a powerful analysis of the feeble evidence upon which it is based. Indeed, argues the author, the theory has been rendered obsolete by the discovery of the Indus Valley Civilization.
This compelling and carefully researched reassessment of colonial ethnology, British Orientalism and the Aryan idea, challenges many ideologies concerning the identity and historical origins of Indians which are in vogue today. It will be of considerable interest to historians, anthropologists, cultural critics and linguists as well as the general reader.
Anyans and British India, as are all Thomas Trautmann’s studies, is meticulously researched and carefully argued. It is a continuation of his interest in ethnography and anthropology of early societies, with a focus on the interpretation of Indian society, In questioning the theory of the racial origins of Indian civilization… be brings to bear on the subject his expertise both in anthropology and Ideology…Trautmann’s study provides a lucid and forceful narrative of the inception and growth of the theory as a construct of the 19th century.
-Romila Thapar (From the Foreword)
Foreword by Romila Thapar
The Mosaic ethnology of Asiatick Jones
Philology and Ethnology
Race Science versus Sanskrit
The Racial Theory of Indian Civilization