Savaging the Civilized: Verrier Elwin, His Tribals, and India

Ramachandra Guha


Savaging the Civilized: Verrier Elwin, His Tribals, and India

Savaging the Civilized: Verrier Elwin, His Tribals, and India

  • Title: Savaging the Civilized: Verrier Elwin, His Tribals, and India
  • Author: Ramachandra Guha
  • ISBN: 9780226310473
  • Page: 305
  • Format: Hardcover



Verrier Elwin 1902 1964 was unquestionably the most colorful and influential non official Englishman to live and work in twentieth century India A prolific writer, Elwin s ethnographic studies and popular works on India s tribal customs, art, myth and folklore continue to generate controversy.Described by his contemporaries as a cross between Albert Schweitzer and PaulVerrier Elwin 1902 1964 was unquestionably the most colorful and influential non official Englishman to live and work in twentieth century India A prolific writer, Elwin s ethnographic studies and popular works on India s tribal customs, art, myth and folklore continue to generate controversy.Described by his contemporaries as a cross between Albert Schweitzer and Paul Gauguin, Elwin was a man of contradictions, at times taking on the role of evangelist, social worker, political activist, poet, government worker, and He rubbed elbows with the elite of both Britain and India, yet found himself equally at home among the impoverished and destitute Intensely political, the Oxford trained scholar tirelessly defended the rights of the indigenous and, despite the deep religious influences of St Francis and Mahatma Gandhi on his early career, staunchly opposed Hindu and Christian puritans in the debate over the future of India s tribals Although he was ordained as an Anglican priest, Elwin was married twice to tribal women and enthusiastically and publicly extolled the tribals practice of free sex Later, as prime minister Nehru s friend and advisor in independent India, his compelling defense of tribal hedonism made him at once hugely influential, extremely controversial, and the polemical focal point of heated discussions on tribal policy and economic development.Savaging the Civilized is both biography and history, an exploration through Elwin s life of some of the great debates of the twentieth century the future of development, cultural assimilation versus cultural difference, the political practice of postcolonial as opposed to colonial governments, and the moral practice of writers and intellectuals.


Recent Comments "Savaging the Civilized: Verrier Elwin, His Tribals, and India"

Ramachandra Guha, through his individual effort, has produced more and better work than most expensively staffed and large Indian research organisations.

Dr. Verrier Elwin is probably forgotten completely in Britain today. For the generation like me, who were born in independent India after 1947, Dr.Elwin is an unknown quantity because our history books do not even mention him by name, leave alone talk about his achievements in India. It is such a pity because it is the loss of us Indians that we have to learn about him and his role in contemporary Indian history through such splendid works like that of Dr.Guha. Prior to reading this book, I had [...]

I am so glad I found Verrier Elwin through this biography. Verrier Elwin is the (activist) anthropologist for me.

A deep insight into the life and works of Dr. Elwin and his contemporary Indian anthropologists. The author beautifully describes the journey and transformation of Dr. Elwin and the various challenges he had to face personally, professionally and spiritually. The book is an inspiration for people who want to make a difference but are too afraid to give up or sacrifice their present life. The reason for four stars is that the book dwells a bit too much to my liking on Elwin's relationships with t [...]

This book tells about a person who struggles with his ideologies vs practical realities and finally charts his unique path through this struggle. He does make mistakes, mid way corrections but does comes out with a different perspective. Good read especially for people who want to work/working in Tribal areas and in dilemma of what actually constitutes the development of tribals.

Verrier Elwin appears occasionally in the books on Indian sociology wherever a reference to the tribal studies is made. This book goes on to introduce the human side of this Oxford scholar, who for most part remained limited to academics. This book is story of Elwin's life in India. It tells us how a protestant missionary worker transformed with passage of time from a christian to a buddhist (at the very end of his life). It tells how someone who came under the spell of Gandhi ji in the initial [...]

Five stars is for the author to write a wonderful book about a British prist turned Indian anthropologist. The book presents not only an insight to the life and events of Verrier Elwin but also to state of tribals in independent India. The book has attempted to voice the contradicting views as to how tribals should become a part of mainstream 'civilized' life. Barring the criticism Verrier had faced during his lifetime and after, which broadly has strings of personal grudge and jealosy, his cont [...]

This is a rollicking biography of a fascinating and complex personality. Guha does a wonderful job of carefully unpacking the paths Elwin took from clergyman to Gandhi-man to anthropologist in his brief but impactful life. As biography, this book succeeds marvellously. It is slightly less successful in its claims to describe the historical context and the tribal question that Elwin forced into the public consciousness. These, perhaps necessarily, provide only a faint wash against which Guha pain [...]

definitely.e book gives a very good insight into the life of one of the most colourfull and controversial social and cultural anthropologists who made india his home and contributed so much .lovely reading.


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    Published :2018-08-14T05:08:01+00:00