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“Scenes of Inheritance”: Intellectual Kinship and the Ethnography of Academic Anthropology and Sociology in Delhi

Hoda Bandeh-Ahmadi

Many intellectuals and academics, including social scientists, sometimes describe, understand, or act upon their relationships with other academics in terms of kinship. While these narratives should not be taken for granted in the telling of histories of science, their significance to understanding both how scholars make knowledge and relate to each other should not be ignored. Based on ethnographic and archivalresearch on three academic departments of anthropology and sociology in Delhi and Lucknow, and the scholars who have been associated with them from India’s independence in 1947 until the present, this paper argues for the usefulness of anthropological debates about kinship for better theorizing ideas and practices of intellectual genealogy both for anthropology and studies of knowledge production more broadly. Specifically, the paper analyzes the complex ways these relations played out ethnographically at two public events—an honorary lecture and a book release event that brought together scholars belonging to several generations of one department—in July 2015, and contextualizes them with a variety of perspectives within and across departments. The juxtaposition of these events highlights the importance of generational relations to scholars’ understandings of what it means to be an academic, as well as to the moral, political, and economic circumstances of scholars’ lives.