Former Princeton University Professor Blames Political Machinery for Oversimplifying Religion and Culture

New Delhi, 1 February: Eminent anthropologist and author of celebrated ethnographic studies, Prof. Gananath Obeyesekere rebuked the political machinery for oversimplifying religion and culture. The former Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Princeton University was giving a public lecture yesterday at the Teen Murti Auditorium here on the topic ‘The Coming of Brahmin Migrants: The Sudra Fate of an Indian Elite in Sri Lanka.

Chaired by Patricia Uberoi from Delhi University, the event was organised by Faculty of Social Sciences, South Asian University as a part of its annual lecture series ‘Contribution to Contemporary Knowledge.’ The lecture had in attendance scholars such as historian Professor Romila Thapar, besides many other noted social scientists from leading varsities. The enormous scholarship of Prof. Obeyesekere encapsulated the themes from mythology, history, culture and religion in the framework of South Asia with specific focus on Sri Lanka and its historical intersections with India.

The deeply researched lecture delved into the history of the Indian Brahmins in Sri Lanka and provided insight into the circumstances of their migration.

As the second leg of the program, the Faculty of Social Sciences conducted a unique interactive workshop with Prof. Obeyesekere at Akbar Bhawan Campus of South Asian University in Chanakyapuri today. The workshop deliberated on the possibilities of doing ethnographic studies in the context of contemporary South Asia with its multiple crises and complexities. Among the themes that emerged was the issue that ethnographic monographs can offer a mechanism to overcome identity politics rife in South Asia. It underlined the need to fuse anthropology in the policy discourses in south Asia.

This program, which will be an annual affair, will continue to generate new insights in the knowledge production and transaction at this two year old university which was established by SAARC in 2010.

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