Autobiography of an Archive

A Scholar's Passage to India

Nicholas B. Dirks

Columbia University Press

Autobiography of an Archive

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Pub Date: February 2015

ISBN: 9780231169677

400 Pages

Format: Paperback

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Pub Date: February 2015

ISBN: 9780231169660

400 Pages

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Pub Date: February 2015

ISBN: 9780231538510

400 Pages

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Autobiography of an Archive

A Scholar's Passage to India

Nicholas B. Dirks

Columbia University Press

The decades between 1970 and the end of the twentieth century saw the disciplines of history and anthropology draw closer together, with historians paying more attention to social and cultural factors and the significance of everyday experience in the study of the past. The people, rather than elite actors, became the focus of their inquiry, and anthropological insights into agriculture, kinship, ritual, and folk customs enabled historians to develop richer and more representative narratives. The intersection of these two disciplines also helped scholars reframe the legacies of empire and the roots of colonial knowledge.

In this collection of essays and lectures, history's turn from high politics and formal intellectual history toward ordinary lives and cultural rhythms is vividly reflected in a scholar's intellectual journey to India. Nicholas B. Dirks recounts his early study of kingship in India, the rise of the caste system, the emergence of English imperial interest in controlling markets and India's political regimes, and the development of a crisis in sovereignty that led to an extraordinary nationalist struggle. He shares his personal encounters with archives that provided the sources and boundaries for research on these subjects, ultimately revealing the limits of colonial knowledge and single disciplinary perspectives. Drawing parallels to the way American universities balance the liberal arts and specialized research today, Dirks, who has occupied senior administrative positions and now leads the University of California at Berkeley, encourages scholars to continue to apply multiple approaches to their research and build a more global and ethical archive.
A unique and compelling volume with a great deal of fascinating material and provocative observations. Nicholas B. Dirks's essays will be extremely influential for the large and growing public interested in India. David Szanton, University of California, Berkeley, and editor of The Politics of Knowledge: Area Studies and the Disciplines
Using the conceit of an autobiography, this book dazzles with luminous reflections on the archive of knowledge on India. As a leading scholar of India in the American academy, Nicholas B. Dirks offers original insights on the history and politics of scholarship, on empire and its entailment in the production of knowledge, and on the career of history and anthropology as disciplines. Autobiography of an Archive showcases Dirks at his best as a scholar and cultural critic. Gyan Prakash, author of Mumbai Fables
Nicholas B. Dirks has taken to heart the disciplinary alliance between Anthropology and History that Keith Thomas so fruitfully articulated in theory (and then pursued in practice) a half century ago. In these essays he artfully pursues it himself via an autobiographical unfolding of his own archival path of discovery as a scholar of India. The essays will be greatly admired not only for their knowledgeable, distinctive, and acute grasp of the difficult and well-mined phenomena of kingship and caste and colonialism but also for the sustained and detailed angle of sympathy and regard they present on those oppressed by that phenomena. Akeel Bilgrami, Columbia University
Autobiography of an Archive is a compelling synthesis of his extraordinary career as a scholar, teacher, and institution builder. Nicholas B. Dirks's account of the interconnections between anthropology and history and his commitment to the internationalization of liberal learning make his book a vital contribution to contemporary discussions of globalization and education. Michael S. Roth, president, Wesleyan University
Nicholas B. Dirks, with his consummate clarity and stylistic finesse, takes the reader on an autobiographical and historical journey to show both how history and culture are imbricated in the making of these fields and more generally to why history so matters to the future visions of the vitality and the openness we must embrace to understand our world today. Ann Laura Stoler, New School for Social Research
An incredible book, a work that needs to be relished slowly... Anthropology News
Taut, clear language, which, at times, becomes almost lyrical. H-Net
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Passage to India
Part I. Autobiography
1. Annals of the Archive: Ethnographic Notes on the Sources of History
2. Autobiography of an Archive
3. Preface to the Second Edition of The Hollow Crown
Part II. History and Anthropology
4. Castes of Mind
5. Ritual and Resistance: Subversion as a Social Fact
6. The Policing of Tradition: Colonialism and Anthropology in Southern India
Part III. Empire
7. Imperial Sovereignty
8. Bringing the Company Back In: The Scandal of Early Global Capitalism
9. The Idea of Empire
Part IV. The Politics of Knowledge
10. In Near Ruins: Cultural Theory at the End of the Century
11. G. S. Ghurye and the Politics of Sociological Knowledge
12. South Asian Studies: Futures Past
Part V. University
13. Franz Boas and the American University: A Personal Account
14. Scholars and Spies: Worldly Knowledge and the Predicament of the University
15. The Opening of the American Mind
Notes
Permissions
Index

About the Author

Nicholas B. Dirks is the chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also a professor of history and anthropology. An internationally renowned historian and anthropologist, he is known for his work on the history of kingship and the institution of caste in India, as well as for his writing on the British empire. His major works include The Hollow Crown: Ethnohistory of an Indian Kingdom; Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India; and The Scandal of Empire: India and the Creation of Imperial Britain. He has edited several books, including Colonialism and Culture, Culture/Power/History: A Reader in Contemporary Social Theory, and In Near Ruins: Cultural Theory at the End of the Century.