Indian Anthropological Association (IAA) is the representative body of the professional anthropologists in India
The idea to form this association was conceived way back in 1964 at Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh when the All Indian Summer School was organized by the Department of Anthropology, University of Delhi, Delhi. Late Professor P.C. Biswas was the founder chairman of the association. The participants of this Summer School included Irawati Karve from Pune, L.P. Vidyarthi and Sachidanand from Ranchi, J.C. Sharma from Chandigarh, M.R. Chakarvarty from Calcutta, R.P. Srivastava from Lucknow and many other eminent scholars. All the members felt that although there were regional associations present in many universities, a national body like this could negotiate well with the government bodies.
The Association continued in an informal manner till 1969 when it was formally registered under the Societies Registration Act with the Department of Anthropology, University of Delhi, Delhi as its national headquarters. Since then the association has never looked back in its journey in the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge regarding the diversified conditions of human existence. It has focused on the understanding of the variety that the Indian culture exhibits, without ignoring the important findings of the world anthropology. It has been sensitive and responsive to significant conceptual and methodological advances developing from time to time in British, American and French anthropological traditions. This has been achieved primarily through its journal – Indian Anthropologist, the inaugural issue of which came in 1971 on the occasion of the birth centenary celebrations of Rai Bahadur Sarat Chandra Roy – the father of Indian anthropology. The Founder Editor-in-Chief was Professor Shyama Charan Dube. Since then, the journal has successfully endeavored to reflect in its pages the range and diversity of contemporary research and writing on Anthropology of India.
One of the biggest achievements of the Association was to organize the Xth International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) in 1978 and to publish an exhaustive directory of the Indian Anthropologists and their work during this occasion. Professor D.K. Bhattacharya edited it and L.P. Vidhyarthi, the then President of the Association played an important role in this event. More than 2000 delegates of professional anthropologists from all over the world carried this directory with them to their countries. When the association was trying its best during the initial years of its inception to carve out a place for itself, the scenario of Indian anthropology was not devoid of other professional bodies. The Ethnographic and Folk Culture Society founded by D.N. Majumdar at Lucknow and the Indian Anthropological Society founded by Surajit Sinha are two such important organizations, which are still devoted to bring out research works in their respective journals. Indian Anthropological Association has neither tried to enter into any competition with the already existing organizations nor did it duplicate their work. Over a period of time it has developed a personality of its own. The collective personality of the association is truly national in character where narrow regional considerations and parochial outlook find no place.
It was only the effort of the IAA and its prolonged and persuasive interaction with relevant government bodies that in early 1980s, anthropology could be re-introduced as an optional subject in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) examinations conducted by Union Public Services Commission, New Delhi. It also took up a stand against the Indian Science Congress’ decision to drop anthropology from its sessions/sections in 2001. Indian Anthropological Association (IAA) provided the platform for such resistance in one of its annual general body meetings held during the Science Congress that was organized by the Pusa Institute, Delhi. Late Professor J.S. Bhandari chaired this meeting as President, IAA.
Globalization has posed new challenges for the practice of anthropology and its practitioners have to respond, critique and intervene in newer situations. India which is emerging as an important global actor needs to lead in terms of knowledge construction. The contemporary Indian anthropology is facing several challenges. A time has come when the distinction between anthropologists and the people they study are fast disappearing. Anthropologists in the field are constantly facing the dilemma in choosing out of the suggestive mould of scientific enquiry and sentimental activism. Post-modernism as an alternative to the scientific objectivism can no longer be out rightly discarded. Further the role of non governmental organizations (NGOs) in the field of social development with special reference to the empowerment of the people is gaining importance. The responsibility of socio-economic development no more rests only on the government’s shoulder rather the role of civil society institutions in advocacy, networking and empowerment has created a new space for associational activities.
The need of time is to create new symbols of which the members of Indian Anthropological Association family can be proud of. Recognition to the younger professional anthropologists, and creating their new networks beyond the disciplinary boundaries, providing them global platforms could perhaps be few of the measures to harness the human potential available within Indian anthropology to its optimum. Promotion of interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity remain one of the important goals. Lobbying with other anthropological associations locally, nationally and globally would enable anthropology to have a greater visibility in the global arena. IAA has withstood the test of time and will also face the challenges of future quite successfully.
The aims and objectives of the Association are:
To promote study, research and publication in anthropology in India
To coordinate the anthropological activities in different parts of India
To explore way and means for application of Anthropology in the large interest of the Community
To promote the professional interest of the Anthropologists in India
Indian Anthropological Association has recently joined World Council of Anthropological Association (WCAA) in 2010 marking its presence in the international arena. IAA organized an international conference on 'Anthropology of Global Issues' in 2012. This conference was the happy product of collaboration of WCAA, Association of Social Anthropologists of UK and Commonwealth (ASA), Indian Anthropological Society (IAS), Kolkata and Indian Anthropological Association to discuss common global issues of anthropological interest. In future too we hope to take this dialogue further.