Tod as anthropologist
Trying to understand
in Knowledge, mediation and empire
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Tod’s observations on the social practice of the Rajputs and the Gujaratis can be situated in a context of attention by thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment and French Enlightenment philosophers to kinship systems, social customs, gradations and hierarchisations among different human groups. Tod seems to have tried to adapt his written reports to his field observations of the manners and customs, and the relation to history of the Rajputs and the Gujaratis, rather than project a preconceived grid of interpretation on their social practices with the sole object of consolidating the superiority of Western societies and justifying British colonial intervention in India. Whether it was concerning different, tribes, ethnic groups and dynasties, varying interpretations of the rights to the land, the social status of women, or local histories, Tod seems to have spent his energy mainly in trying to understand and then in presenting to his European readers, the complexities of his observations on the social practices of the Rajputs and the Gujaratis, rather than in situating them in any abstract, hierarchical scale of civilisations.

Knowledge, mediation and empire

James Tod’s journeys among the Rajputs




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