Monday, 27 June 2011

G. S. Ghurye

Professor G. S. Ghurye (1893-1983) is justifiably considered the doyen of Indian Sociology. On his return from Cambridge, where he wrote his doctoral dissertation under W.H.R. Rivers and later A.C. Haddon, Ghurye succeeded Sir Patric Geddes as Head of Department of Sociology in the University of Bombay in 1924. He continued to head the Department until his retirement in 1959. After retirement, he was designated the first Emeritus Professor in the University of Bombay.

Ghurye's contribution to the development of sociology and anthropology in India is enormous and multi-faceted. A prolific writer, Ghurye wrote 32 books and scores of papers, which cover such wide-ranging themes as kinship and marriage, urbanization, ascetic traditions, tribal life, demography, architecture and literature.

Ghurye played a key role in the professionalisation of sociology by founding the Indian Sociological Society and its journal Sociological Bulletin. In addition, he encouraged and trained a large number of talented students who, in turn, advanced the frontiers of sociological and anthropological research in the country. With his own voluminous output and through the researches of his able students Ghurye embarked on an ambitious project of mapping out the ethnographic landscape of India.

Ghurye’s rigor and discipline is legendary in Indian sociological circles. In the application of theories to empirical exercises or in the use of methodologies for data collection he was not dogmatic. He seems to have believed in practicing and encouraging disciplined eclecticism in theory and methodology. It would be appropriate to characterize Ghurye as a practitioner of theoretical pluralism. Basically interested in inductive empirical exercises and depicting Indian social reality using any source material –primarily Indological – his theoretical position bordered on laissez-faire.Ghurye’s flexible approach to theory and methodology in sociology and social anthropology in sociology and social anthropology was born of his faith in intellectual freedom which is reflected in the diverse theoretical and methodological approaches.

Ghurye was initially influenced by the reality of diffusionist approach of British social anthropology but subsequently he switched on to the studies of Indian society from indological and anthropological perspectives. He emphasized on Indological approach in the study of social and cultural life in India and the elsewhere.Ghurye utilized literature in sociological studies with his profound knowledge of Sanskrit literature, extensively quoted from Vedas, Shastras, epics and poetry of Kalidasa or Bhavabhuti to shed light on the social and cultural life in India. He made use of the literature of modern writers like Bankimchandra Chatterjee as well.

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