Patricia Uberoi, Satish Deshpande and Nandini Sundar (all Professors of Sociology at the Delhi School of Economics) have attempted a history of the foundations of Anthropology in India by looking at the intellectual biographies of the founding fathers in their book Anthropology in the East: the Indian Foundations of a Global Discipline (Permanent Black: 2007). They begin their Introduction with a lament on the absence of disciplinary history.
“…institutional memory is notoriously short. Once key players have left the scene or the chain of apostolic succession ruptured, there appear to be few institutionalized mechanisms for preserving professional history. Personal libraries are sold off, destroyed, or gifted to ill run institutions. Fieldnotes, offprints, unpublished manuscripts, photographs and correspondence are only fitfully preserved by descendants, who tend, soon enough, to tire of their pious responsibility and the endless battle against dust, mould and bugs. There is no recognized and centralized archive for depositing such materials…we don’t seem to have the interest in disciplinary history that we have seen developing in the West over the last few decades.”
The LKM Centre that is coming up, is an attempt to preserve the disciplinary history and institutional memory of an institution builder and doyen of anthropology, Professor L K Mahapatra. It will also seek to take the intellectual work of Professor Mahapatra forward.