Guest post by Dr. S. Gregory
The year 2012-13 marked a milestone in the History of Anthropology in Kerala for multiple reasons. Among many things, it marked the 25 years of PG teaching in Anthropology in Kerala and the Department of Anthropology had the unique privilege of organizing the Indian Anthropological Congress, the 10th Congress of the Indian National Confederation and Academy of Anthropologists (INCAA). The INCAA Congress, which was held as a full Congress once in three years and inter-Congresses in between, would henceforth be holding its full Congress every year under the name ‘Indian Anthropological Congress’, for which Kannur sets its beginning. The 2013 Congress held between 14 and 16 February 2013 aimed at taking a fresh look at the anthropological identities and approaches in the context of the emerging challenges and examines its potentiality for the future of the humankind. Hence, the focal Theme of the IAC 2013 was ‘Anthropology and the Future of Humankind. The theme of the Congress was chosen in the context of the dilemma Anthropology confronts between its professional commitment and the tendency to compromise its autonomy in order to erase out its anti-establishment stance, and hence of the urgency to examine the role of Anthropology vis-à-vis the future of humankind. The Congress attracted senior and young Anthropologists, from all over India, from the North, North East, East, West and South, with a total of about 250 participants, more than two third of them being from outside Kerala.
The inaugural function was presided over by the National President of INCAA, Prof. R.K. Mutatkar. Prof. A.P. Kuttikrishnan, the then Pro-Vice Chancellor of Kannur University inaugurated the Congress. Prof Gregory welcomed the gathering and provided a glimpse of the decade evolution of the Congress. Prof. PRG Mathur, the senior-most Anthropologist in Kerala, and Prof. B. Ananda Bhanu, the former Head of the Department of Anthropology were felicitated on the occasion by the President of INCAA, Prof. Mutatkar. This was followed by Prof. B.M. Das Memorial Oration by Prof D.K. Bhattacharya, from Delhi University, and was presided by Prof I.J.S. Bansal. The INCAA publications were released on the occasion. The academic exercise of the Congress started with the Round Table, which was moderated by Prof A.K. Danda, the Member-Secretary of INCAA. Fourteen eminent Anthropologists from all over India made deliberations on the conference theme: Anthropology and the Future of Humankind. It brought out a few significant concerns related to the academic and social situation which demands some methodological and analytical changes within anthropology as a discipline.
The second day of the Congress started with the Plenary Session. There were two speakers in the plenary session. Prof B.V. Sharma from Hyderabad Central University deliberated on ‘Culture and Development’ while Dr. Kannan P. Nambiar from George Washington University, Washington DC talked on the ‘Feminization of Migration and Human Rights’. This was followed by the S.C. Dube memorial lecture by Prof. Parasuram, Director of TISS, Mumbai and was presided by Prof Yogesh Atal. Prof Parasuram also released the Silver Jubilee Souvenir of the Department on the occasion, which provides a comprehensive picture about the Department and its overall profile.
The Scientific Sessions, which followed the SC Dube Memorial Lecture, involved six symposiums on varied themes, ranging from Ethnic Identity to sustainable Development, Health and Disease, Human Genetics, Growth and Developoment, Multiculturalism and Anthropological Identities and Approaches, and were held parallel in six different venues, each with three Technical Sessions. More than 80 papers had been deliberated in these sessions, followed by academic discussions. The Poster Session of the Congress had papers across all the themes of the Symposium. The cultural banquet offered by professional artists and by our own students, giving a few glimpses of Kerala Culture, enthralled the participants to its peak.
The third day started with a Special Interactive Session on Tribal Development, with the participation of the tribal activist, from Kerala Ms. C.K. Janu and moderated by Dr J.J. Pallath. The interaction was made lively and truly enriching and enlightening with the participation of Dr Jakka Parthasarathy, the former Director of the Tribal Research Center, Dr Francis Kulirani, the former Deputy Director of the Anthropological Survey of India and Shri Mohankumar, the former Director of KIRTADS. This was followed by the valedictory function which was presided over by the senior anthropologist, Dr. PRG Mathur. The Valedictory address was delivered by Prof Hussain Khan of Karnataka University. The winners of the Quiz program, conducted for the higher Secondary Anthropology students, which was one of the pre-Congress exercise, were honored with cash awards and memento.
The participants expressed a deep sense of appreciation for an excellent organization and arrangement as well as academic deliberations during the Congress. The Congress, organized under the aegis of INCAA, was made possible with the financial support from IGRMS, ICSSR, KIRTADS, Praxis India and from the University. The INCAA Kerala Chapter and the Faculty and students from the department had been the backbone in making the Congress a grand success. The extensive coverage given by the Press was unprecedented and provided the necessary boost to take Anthropology in Kerala to new heights. It had also provided an opportunity for the young anthropologists to get exposed to the wider canvas of Indian Anthropology.
Though the roots of anthropology in India could be traced back to the early phase of the colonial era, Anthropology as an Academic discipline had its beginning in India, only in 1920, with the starting of the Department of Anthropology at Calcutta University, with L.K. Ananthakrishna Iyer from Kerala as one of the founding fathers of the Department. The 22nd Indian Science Congress held at Calcutta in 1935, under the Presidency of Dr J.H. Hutton, with the theme Anthropology and India, and the establishment of Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) in 1945, carving it out from the Zoological Survey of India are worth mentioning here.
In Kerala, the ethnological tradition of L.K. Ananthakrishna Iyer was continued by his son L.A. Krishna Iyer, and carried forward further by his grandson L.K Balaratnam, the living continuity of this trio. Yet another doyen of Anthropology was Prof. A. Aiyappan, former Vice-Chancellor of Kerala University. The line of Anthropological stalwarts in Kerala would be incomplete without the name of Prof. PRG Mathur. The Tribal Research and Training Institute (TR&TI) established in 1970 with Professor A. Aiyappan as its Founding Special Officer, later became a separate Department of the Government of Kerala and renamed as Kerala Institute for Research, Training and Development of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (KIRTADS) in 1979, under the Directorship of Professor PRG Mathur, to conduct research on socioeconomic status of tribes, and impart training to officials posted in tribal areas about the tribal culture. KIRTADS became a center for Anthropological doctoral Research as well at a time when there was no Anthropology Department in any of the Universities in Kerala. Prof. Mathur had also been instrumental in the establishment of the Ananthakrishna Iyer International Centre for Anthropological Studies (AICAS) in 1979, at Palakkad, with the main objective of promoting anthropological research in South India.