Verrier Elwin's essential humanism, theological training, and Gandhian outlook make his work truly distinct. Credited for unveiling before the world the great civilization of India's tribal communities, Elwin's work is essential to any discussion on anthropological writing in India.
The Oxford India Elwin, part of the prestigious Oxford India Collection, draws from a wide range of Elwin's writings. Combining autobiographical and scholarly writing, and embellished with more than one hundred photographs and illustrations, this detailed yet eminently readable volume offers a tantalizing glimpse into India's rich and varied tribal culture.
From the jungles of Madhya Pradesh, where the story begins, this book follows Elwin through Bastar and Orissa to the North-cast where he eventually settles. A useful reference to the best of Elwin for those already familiar with his work, this book will also introduce interested readers to the charm of his writing and to a fascinating world that is fast disappearing.
In an Introduction written especially for this volume, Ganesh N. Devy pays tribute to the man and his contribution towards revealing the civilization and beauty of the tribal people.
Presenting Elwin’s fascinating account of the tribal way of life in India, the volume offers a particularly nostalgic journey for anthropologists, historian, sociologists, cultural scientists, and anyone interested in the cultural diversity of India. Elwin’s policy Prescriptions for tribal welfare are relevant and informed, and will benefits policymakers and NGOs working in tribal areas.
Verrier Elwin (1902-1964), anthropologist, poet, and activist from England, is well known for his seminal work on the tribal culture of India. He also served as the chief of the Anthropological Survey of India.
Ganesh N. Devy renowned literary critic and activist, is founder and director of the Tribal Academy at Tejgadh, Gujarat. He is also director of Sahitya Akademi’s Project on Literature in Tribal Languages and Oral Traditions.
Verrier Elwin's association with Oxford University Press dates back to the early 1930s. Since then almost all his books have been published by OUP. Over the years, many of these titles-Leaves from the Jungle (1936), Folk-Songs of the Maikal Hills (with Shamrao Hivale, OUP 1944), The Muria and their Ghotul(OUP 1947), The Religion of an Indian Tribe (OUP 1955), A Philosophy for NEFA (1957), The Tribal World of Verrier Elwin (OUP 1964)-have gained a near-classic status, with Leaves from the Jungle and The Tribal World of Verrier Elwin receiving special praise from both the specialist and the non-specialist, interested reader.
The Oxford India Elwin, a part of the Oxford India Collection that reflects the enduring value of our publishing, combines an engaging narrative in Elwin's inimitable style with evocative illustrations, many of which were done under the author's direct supervision.
This volume begins with an extract from Leaves from the Jungle, which provides an account of the factors that led to Elwin's choosing his vocation for life. As is evident from the piece, Elwin went to the jungles of central India not as an anthropologist but as a 'philanthropologist'. 'Dear as the Moon' and 'Philanthropology', from the autobiographical The Tribal World of Verrier Elwin, carry the story of Elwin's years in central India forward, detailing the time he spent not only in Madhya Pradesh but also in Bastar and Orissa. Extracts from The Muria and their Ghotul provide glimpses of his seminal work on the unique institution of the 'ghotul' among the Murias and other tribes of Bastar. Maria Murder and Suicide is his attempt at understanding the high incidence of murder and suicide among the fierce Bison-horn Marias of Bastar.
While selections from The Religion of an Indian Tribe offer fascinating insights into the rituals and customs of the 'medicine men' of the Saora tribe of Orissa, the Introduction to Folk-Songs of the Maikal Hills discusses the principles of translating folk poetry and the use the author makes of them while translating the tribal folk poetry of Madhya Pradesh. Extracts from Myths of Middle India transport us to a realm far removed from the everyday rational urban world that we inhabit. They show the importance of nature, magic, the supernatural, and song and dance in tribal life. The selections from The Tribal World of Verrier Elwin provide an account of Elwin's travels in the remote North- East Frontier of India, and the extracts from The Art of the North-East Frontier of India, Nagaland, and Myths of the North-East Frontier of India discuss the effects of 'civilization' on tribal art all over the world in general and in India's north-east in particular. 'The Tribal Councils in NEFA', from Democracy in NEFA discusses how the policy of the NEFA administration was to strengthen and work through these tribal councils.
Verrier Elwin's approach to the study of tribal culture in India was coloured neither by Orientalism nor paternalism, the then dominant approaches to the cultural study of the 'other'. Elwin's involvement was spurred on by genuine concern and empathy. His writings on tribal culture and development, spread over almost a quarter of a century, are to this day acknowledged as the most authoritative work on the subject in India. We hope readers, in particular the non-specialist interested in the cultural diversity of India, will enjoy this new addition to the Oxford India Collection.
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