Methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences: A Workshop | Shiv Nadar University

Methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences: A Workshop

This workshop aims to promote a critical awareness needed by Social Science and Humanities researchers in pursuit of their questions. How sources are formed, interrogated, classified, and analyzed and interpreted, are some key themes in this workshop. Presenters from History and Sociology will address a range of questions in the practice of knowing. Their presentations of their experience working with ‘methods’ will enrich our learning of what it means to undertake research in the Social Sciences and the Humanities.

Event Date: 
Saturday, February 16, 2019 -

The problems of Retranslation and Ahistorical Numbers: Vernacular Archives and Use of Data in History

Dr. Iman Mitra 

Assistant Professor, History, Shiv Nadar University

‘The archive is simultaneously the outcome of historical process and the very condition for the production of historical knowledge,’ says Nicholas Dirks in his fascinating Autobiography of an Archive (2015). He also regrets in the same article that the historians lack the self-reflexive attitude which is often observed among the anthropologists as regards their fields. Without getting into the differences between the two forms of knowledge, one may say that the archive can be treated as an object of historical study in its own right – not only as a source of information but also as a site of material practices which make the historian’s world. In this presentation, we will talk about two aspects of historical research which will hopefully portray the archive as a lively, nimble, innovative entity that demands some alertness on part of the researcher – the vernacular archives and the use of data in history. Although it is commonly held that the archives consist mostly of information in the language of the metropole (English for a British colony, for example), the literature that had appeared at the same time in vernacular languages constitutes a great bulk of ‘research material’ and has the potential to expose the asymmetries of power and incommensurability of linguistic and other forms of exchanges in starker details. However, the ‘use’ of the vernacular archive may present a curious problem of ‘re-translation’ for the researcher when she re-produces her findings in the language of the metropole (English for a British postcolony, for example) and may lead to falling into a trap of reiterating the logic of the same metropolitan archive that she wants to challenge through her vernacular sources. On the other hand, the culling of data from reports and correspondences from another century and referring to them in a self-evident and ahistorical manner (without any conversation with the histories of the categories, headings and the disciplines and methods of data collection) may induce anachronism or, worse, dogmatic manipulations. With illustrations from different documents and published texts, we will discuss how to avoid these pitfalls and how it can reflect on conceptualisation of the archive within the ambit of historical research.


Three Aspects - Archive and Modernity; Archive, Classification and History of the Social; My Working Relation with the Archive

Dr. Shrimoy Roy Chaudhuri

Assistant Professor, History, Shiv Nadar University

In my brief introduction to the archive, I will touch upon three aspects--archive and modernity; archive, classification and history of the social; my working relation with the archive.

Archive and Modernity: the discipline of archive and European chronology of modern history in 18th century France; and counter history of archive--archive, “dead hand” of law, and history.

Archival classifications, and the history of the social: historians’ journey through spatial classifications of the archive into the discourse of social. Broad archival classifications of British India.

My working relationship with the archive: colonial archival classification of medical as a “branch”, and its implications for the history of modern medicine in India. 


Hearing the Unheard: Archives, Language and the Field Methods of Tribal History

Dr. Saagar Tewari

Assistant Professor, Jindal School of Liberal Arts and Humanities, O.P. Jindal Global University

Social groups variously called Scheduled Tribes, Aboriginals, Adivasis, Vanavasi, Adimjati etc. form approximately 8% of the Indian population. They often inhabit the hills and forests which have been marginal spaces to more organised and surplus producing social formations.

Despite their continued existence and immense contribution to our overall civilizational matrix, historians find that their past is difficult to access as tribal communities have left behind very little documentary evidence. The result is a lag in knowledge production about them which fuels their further marginalisation in the modernist democratic discourse.

Doing tribal history has very specific problems and challenges. This talk will combine the speaker’s personal experiences of the ‘field’ with some reflections on the past, present and possible future of the Tribal/Adivasi Studies. 


Ethnography as a method in the making

Dr. Subhashim Goswami

Assistant Professor, Sociology, Shiv Nadar University

One may say that the cornerstone of any research is the relationship between the researcher, the location of one’s research (the field) and the sources one draws for research (archive). Within the field of anthropology/sociology, working on a research question usually entails delineating a field influenced by a discursive frame and the eventual writing up of the field which constructs what could be thought of as an ethnography. The research object one can argue occupies a position in between the triad of discourse, archive and field work and it is the result of these three frames either in resonance or in disjunction that produces what we may term an ethnographic object. 

An ethnography therefore I argue can never be fixed and stable. As much as an ethnography changes in one’s readership, the production of an ethnography too can never achieve a conclusive closure as far as the relationship between the field and the researcher is concerned. The field, the ethnography and the writing up of the field does not exist in a linear relationship and it would be a falsity to presume one precedes the other. In this workshop I would like to focus on how there cannot be a method a priori to one’s object of inquiry and how one must recognise that an ethnography is a process of the field forming itself in the writing up of it. This workshop would like to open the possibility of thinking about an ethnographic object as an object that is always in the making - an object that is continually engaged in the process of its own formation.

Saturday 16, Feb 2019
09:00 AM - 05:00 PM
D 330