Storytelling of a Scholastic Life
Ratheesh Kumar
Storytelling of a Scholastic Life by A.M. Shah Routledge, 2019, 90 pp., 495.00
June 2020, volume 44, No 6

The emergence of the ‘biographical turn’ in social science tradition inaugurated a new intellectual movement in capturing the nuances of economic and social change and the ruptures in institutional histories. The past few decades of biographical research represent the broader spectrum of shifting frames of concepts, methods and methodologies. Institutional structures and traditions built under ideologies and idiosyncrasies and operated through both implicit and explicit concerns over conceptual and methodological apparatus had a profound impact on the intellectual culture of a region, or of a nation itself. In that sense, biographizing the intellectual individual(s) in search of disciplinary histories of a particular region can offer crucial insights into the inroads of pedagogy, research and institutional practices. If we transpose the aforesaid concern into the fields of sociology and social anthropology of the subcontinent, then the present account would fit perfectly in the frame of such an endeavour, sounding a ‘biographical turn’ in some sense.

MN Srinivas (1916-1999) is acclaimed as a major figure of sociology and social anthropology who contributed enormously to the development of both these disciplines in India through his teaching, research and institution building. This biographical account is a collection of AM Shah’s five articles on and an interview with MN Srinivas, published over the years 1996-2000. The work is perceived from the author’s understanding of the legacy of Srinivas as a scholar, teacher, and institution builder. Somewhere along the way the work navigates through the lives and works of his teachers, disciples, contemporaries and critics and their distinct engagements with him.  At the outset, the author narrates his long, intimate and many-sided association with MN Srinivas from the early 1950s at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda as a student-teacher relationship and then to a much closer collegial and friendly affinity in Delhi University.  It is worth noting the author’s disclaimer as he cautions the readers that although he was writing a biographical account of MN Srinivas and not his autobiography, one should not expect a perfectly objective biography.

Continue reading this review