Anthropological study of SAARC countries
POPULATIONS OF THE SAARC COUNTRIES Bio-cultural perspectives: Jayanta Sarkar and G.C. Ghosh Editors; Anthropological Survey of India and Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd., L-10, Green Park Extension, New Delhi-110016.
ANTHROPOLOGY BEGAN by studying little known exotic populations in order to understand and also generalise principles of human society.
Some historians felt that such an approach was not adequate to understand complex industrial societies. Despite these objections studies of peoples with a focus on a nation started appearing in fairly good number during the 1950s. One of the earliest such attempts is that of L.K. Hsu which appeared in 1952.
It was titled, A Study of China in Transition and Its Implication. Almost in the same year M.N. Srinivas published his study on the Coorgs of Karnataka and Iravati Karve brought out her work, Kinship Organisation of India. Adrian Mayer's Land and Society in Malabar or for that matter, S.C. Dube's Indian Village are similar attempts to focus at a microcosm in order to develop a macrocosm.
Gradually anthropologists started changing this stand because of purely methodological reasons. It was argued that the universe of any kind of anthropological study could not be based on geo-political or linguistic boundaries.
Instead the correct method has to be based on endogamous ethnic groups or what the physical anthropologists will like to call a Mendelian population.
The book under review, consequently, has to be taken as an attempt of only bringing together a large assortment of diverse information for merely the purpose of documentation.
Information on population from seven different countries in the general neighbourhood of each other and forming a club under a political treaty viz., the SAARC countries, has been dealt with in this book.
Part I embodies an article by Chumki Piplai, which traces the population dynamics and ancient movement patterns of the major inhabitants of the SAARC member countries.
This is followed by another article by J.M. Sarcar, which traces the biological affinities of the major population of these countries. Most of this exercise has been done by compiling secondary data. Consequently, nothing more than what is, by far, a well-established fact could be achieved.
For instance, the western populations have higher frequency of Glucose-6 phosphate deficiency while the Mongoloids have low frequency of blood group MS and CDE.
Part II considers the cultural aspects of affinities among the people of the SAARC countries. Jyotirmoy Chakraborty and Rabiranjan Biswas try this difficult task by using such diverse areas of consideration as trade, religion, myths, epics and chronicles.
Even art and architecture as vehicles of cultural diffusion have been considered. Obviously what comes out, as a major casualty in the process, is the fact of overlapping. That each one of these areas can influence one or more of the other areas seems to not bother the authors.
Further myths and epic literature are clubbed together for understanding cultural linkages. This is not entirely the right approach because myths and epics belong to two entirely different genres.
While myth can be considered closer to oral history, epic is in the category of literature. Further, why then not consider the Silapatikaram and the Manimekalai and also the Sangam literature?
The final section of Part II, titled the "Epilogue", and written by J.K. Sarkar and G.C. Ghosh, draws heavily from three publications by Kennedy brought out before 1990.
Apparently the authors missed Kennedy's latest book published in October 2000, God, Apes and Fossil Men. This could have helped them to understand the metamorphosis of prehistoric populations in South Asia in a more holistic manner.
This book aims at an enormous canvas and attempts to deal it within 135 pages. Consequently it basically remains superficial. However, this may help non-specialists to have a glimpse of the people of this region.
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