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Anthropology in the Public Sphere: Indigeneity, Social Justice, Sustainability and Global Peace

Prof. Kamal K. Misra

Professor Emeritus, KISS (DU), Bhubaneswar,

Odisha, India,

Former Vice-Chancellor, Utkal University of Culture,

Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India.


Esteemed Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor of KISS Deemed to be University, Dignitaries on and off the Dais, distinguished anthropologists from all over the globe, ladies and gentlemen, a very good morning to you all.


I consider it a great honour to be here with you this morning in the midst of a galaxy of anthropologists and highly learned intellectuals. I would like to express my deep sense of gratitude to the Governing Councils of both UIAF and WAC-2023 for entrusting me with the pleasant responsibility of delivering the keynote address on this occasion. I am truly thankful to the Chairman of the WAC-2023 Core Group, Prof. P.C. Joshi, and other members such as Prof. D.K. Behera, Prof. Gregory, Prof. A.B. Ota, Prof. Shalina Mehta, and others[1].


The theme of the Congress, as we all know, is 'Anthropology in the Public Sphere: Indigeneity, Social Justice, Sustainability, and Global Peace'. In my honest opinion, the theme is fitting and timely. I sincerely appreciate the academic committee of the Congress for considering this theme, as humanity today faces the threat of increased marginalisation of indigenous communities, social inequalities from local to global levels, challenges in implementing Sustainable Development Goals, and perhaps most significantly, aggression and warfare worldwide. I am delighted that the participants of this Congress, primarily anthropologists, will come together over five days to critically examine their anthropological knowledge and skills in addressing these significant issues.


As we gather here today to discuss global peace, it is worth noting that some 3000 years ago, Indian sages were also seeking the same. I am reminded of the Vedic literature from that era, particularly the Shukla Yajurveda, written between 1200 and 800 BCE, which boldly proclaims:

ॐ द्यौः। शान्तिः॑। अ॒न्तरि॑क्षम्। शान्तिः॑।

पृ॒थि॒वी। शान्तिः॑। आपः॑। शान्तिः॑। ओष॑धयः। शान्तिः॑ ॥

वन॒स्पत॑यः। शान्तिः॑। विश्वे॑। दे॒वाः। शान्तिः॑। ब्रह्म॑। शान्तिः॑।

सर्व॑म्। शान्तिः॑। शान्तिः॑। ए॒व। शान्तिः॑। (36/17)


The above verse means: "May the sky be peaceful, may the atmosphere be peaceful, may the earth be peaceful, may the waters be peaceful, may medicinal herbs be peaceful, may plants be peaceful, may all learned individuals be peaceful, may the divinities and the Vedas be peaceful, may all objects be peaceful, may peace itself be peaceful, may that peace come from all sides unto me [and to all of us]" (Translation by Pandit Devichand). Let's acknowledge that this Vedic concept of peace doesn't merely seek an absence of violence; it rather invites the presence of something profoundly positive. Furthermore, this noble Vedic idea is not limited to the realm of humans alone; it encompasses peace among all creatures and in all areas of life, at all times. This emphasizes that humanity has been actively engaged in the pursuit of peace and harmonious coexistence since time immemorial.


Ladies and Gentlemen, it is undeniable that the world is currently facing an egregious crisis. The Chief of the United Nations, António Guterres, recently warned us that the era of 'global boiling' has arrived. Conflicts between nations for continental supremacy and hegemonic control are on the rise. While many from the younger generation have not experienced the devastation of the last two World Wars, it is deeply concerning that more than 30 countries worldwide are currently impacted by conflict. These conflicts stem from various reasons, including territorial disputes, terrorist insurgency, civil unrest, drug trafficking, ethnic violence, and more. Needless to say, children are always the greatest victims of any conflict, despite having little to do with its causes or consequences. All forms of war are based on anthropological constructs of 'the other' and 'othering', leading to the annihilation of the 'other' as a manifestation of 'destructive rationality'. Hence, Anthropology, as a humanistic discipline, possesses the potential to amplify non-hegemonic and marginalized cultural perspectives regarding global peace and development.


In this context, two crucial questions arise. First, is it essential for Anthropology to be public-facing? Second, how does Anthropology contribute to achieving global peace with social justice? We are well aware of the vast divide among global populations, with a small privileged minority and a significantly larger marginalized majority. This majority includes tribes and indigenous peoples, among others. As anthropologists, we understand the struggles that indigenous peoples worldwide have been undergoing to claim their rights. Presently, there are approximately 467 million indigenous individuals across the globe, who often exist on the fringes of society. The distressing portrayal of their hardships has been documented in the latest report by the World Bank. The report highlights, "Despite constituting only 6 per cent of the global population, indigenous peoples represent about 19 per cent of those living in extreme poverty. Their life expectancy can be up to 20 years lower than that of non-indigenous people worldwide. Indigenous peoples frequently lack formal recognition of their lands, territories, and natural resources. They are often last in line to receive public investments in basic services and infrastructure, and face numerous barriers to full participation in the formal economy, access to justice, and engagement in political processes and decision-making. This history of inequality and exclusion renders indigenous peoples more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, natural disasters, and disease outbreaks like COVID-19" (2023). On this note, I would like to extend my congratulations to the organizers for choosing to inaugurate this five-day World Congress on the 9th of August, a day when the world stands in solidarity with our indigenous and tribal brethren and commemorates the International Day of Indigenous Peoples. You may already be aware that this year's theme is 'Indigenous Youth as Agents of Change for Self-Determination'.


Arguably, the most noteworthy example of expressing solidarity with indigenous peoples is the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) Deemed to be University, which hosts this World Congress. Under the selfless leadership of its founder, Dr. Achyuta Samanta, the University currently provides free education from undergraduate to PhD levels, along with free accommodation, food, and healthcare, to over 30,000 indigenous and tribal students on its main campus in Bhubaneswar. The fact that it has already produced 40,000 young alumni from tribal communities, who embody the spirit of this year's International Day of Indigenous Peoples by being agents of change within their respective societies, is a significant achievement. Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to Dr. Samanta for graciously agreeing to host this five-day World Congress. Let's give him a resounding round of applause.


Now, let's revisit the first question: why should Anthropology be visible in the public sphere? This particular orientation in Anthropology is known as 'Public Anthropology' and is now taught in many universities worldwide. Robert Borofsky, who coined the term in the late 1990s, believes that "Public Anthropology demonstrates the ability of anthropology and anthropologists to effectively address problems beyond the discipline—illuminating the larger social issues of our times as well as encouraging broad, public conversations about them with the explicit goal of fostering social change. It affirms our responsibility, as scholars and citizens, to meaningfully contribute to communities beyond the academy—both local and global—that make the study of anthropology possible" (Borofsky 2000: 30). Among various definitions, Carole McGranahan conceptualises Public Anthropology as "... socially relevant, theoretically informed, and politically engaged ethnographic scholarship" (2006: 256). Books like Edward Hedican's Public Anthropology: Engaging Social Issues in the Modern World (2016) and Sam Beck and Carl Maida's Public Anthropology in a Borderless World (2017) have broadened the scope of Public Anthropology today. It is now understood as a publicly engaged subject encompassing intellectual and ethical concerns; a nexus between anthropological knowledge and governance issues, public discourse, livelihoods, civil society, and more; and an anthropology that appeals to a broader audience. Anthropology in the public arena, therefore, possesses both academic and applied dimensions. While maintaining our engaged scholarship, ethnographic research methodology, and ethical standards, Public Anthropology seeks to grasp human suffering and misery in exquisite detail.


Although Borofsky introduced the term "Public Anthropology" in the late 1990s, it doesn't imply that the pioneers of Anthropology were unconcerned with the subject's public face. McGranahan notes, "Engaged scholarship is not new in anthropology. The discipline has a long history of interventionist work, including Franz Boas’ efforts to change discriminatory ideas on race, Margaret Mead’s efforts to influence social and educational policy, Sol Tax’s action anthropology in the 1940s and 1950s, and more recently, subfields like applied and practicing anthropology. A less commendable lineage would involve anthropology's complicity with colonial and other state endeavors, including recent ones, to classify and control populations. Just like some of these predecessors, public anthropology seeks to effect change based on ethnographic findings. It responds to specific contexts, collaborates with relevant communities, and acknowledges the inherent challenges tied to authority, privilege, and representation" (McGranahan 2006: 256-57).


Robert Borofsky offers examples of how late 19th and early 20th-century anthropological writings had significant resonance in public engagement. He writes, "James Frazer’s The Golden Bough, Margaret Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa, and Ruth Benedict’s Patterns of Culture engaged a wide range of readers outside academia in stimulating and impactful ways during the first half of the 20th century. In the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s, anthropologists often played prominent roles in the public domain. For instance, in May 1936, Franz Boas appeared on the cover of Time magazine, which referred to Boas’ The Mind of Primitive Man as the 'Magna Carta of self-respect' for non-Western peoples. Margaret Mead was a cultural icon. Throughout the 1950s, she was the most widely known and respected anthropologist globally. Upon her death in 1978, tributes poured in not only from the President of the United States but also from the Secretary-General of the United Nations. In 1979, she was posthumously bestowed the United States' highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom" (Borofsky 2020).


At this juncture, let us shift our attention to the early days of Indian Anthropology and anthropologists and their contributions to Public Anthropology. I would like to present the example of two distinguished anthropologists whose exemplary contributions have had far-reaching effects on contemporary society and can be classified as instances of what we now call Public Anthropology. While I've learned about one of them, I've had the privilege of observing the other closely. The individual I couldn't meet but have read about extensively is Prof. Nirmal Kumar Bose. Many of us are familiar with Nirmal Kumar Bose (1901-72) as an astute anthropologist who served as the Director of the Anthropological Survey of India from 1959 to 1964. His role in promoting the public presence of Anthropology in India was substantial, as he had a profound grasp of the political and cultural dimensions of Indian society and its aspirations. During the First N.K. Bose Memorial Lecture organized by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi, Prof. Surajit Sinha remarked, "In 1930, Nirmal Bose joined the Salt Satyagraha[2] movement initiated by Mahatma Gandhi. Alongside a few well-wishers and friends like Hangsheswar Roy and Bhagat of Bolpur, Bose established a Khadi Sangha in a settlement of the then 'untouchable castes'. Bose was arrested in 1931 for participating in the Salt Satyagraha and was incarcerated as a 'C' class prisoner, initially in Suri jail and subsequently transferred to Dum Dum special jail" (Sinha 1997: 12). He was both an anthropologist and a public figure genuinely invested in India's independence struggle and the struggles of marginalized sections of the Indian population for the greater good of the nation. Bose's engagement with tribes and those on the fringes of society was evident in his writings and the initiatives he spearheaded as the Director of the Anthropological Survey of India. Bose's contribution to Indian anthropology aligns well with the characteristics of Public Anthropology, as articulated in the statement, "Public anthropology emphasizes the anthropologist’s role as an engaged intellectual. It continues anthropology’s commitment to being an ethnographic witness, describing human life beyond the experiences of many readers. However, it also commits to reframing public debates – challenging accepted understandings of social issues with fresh insights and perspectives – and fostering social and political change for the betterment of others, particularly those anthropologists work with" (Borofsky and De Lauri 2019: 6).


The other Indian anthropologist, whom many of us may have encountered and interacted with, is Prof. Prabodh Kumar Bhowmick (1926-2003). He is well-known among anthropologists, government officials, and NGOs for his action-based anthropological initiative known as the Bidisha experiment. From his early days, Prof. Bhowmick was dedicated to the nation, with a strong sense of patriotism. Soni and Soni point out, "Prof. Bhowmick was a simple man with nationalist ideals and actions. When he was around 13-14 years old, he participated in the 'Quit India' [3] and 'Swadeshi' [4] movements during 1942 and was imprisoned for two and a half years. He even took his matriculation examination while in jail in 1945" (Soni and Soni 2021: 143). Prof. Prabodh Kumar Bhowmick earned his Ph.D. from Calcutta University in 1960 for his thesis on the socio-economic life of the Lodhas of West Bengal. After completing his Ph.D., he chose to continue studying the Lodha community, which had been classified as a 'Criminal Tribe' under the oppressive 'Criminal Tribes Act, 1871' during British colonial rule. These communities were later de-notified by the Independent Indian government on August 31, 1952. Prof. Bhowmick had a deep affinity for the Lodha community of West Bengal due to the discrimination they faced from both the public and the police. Prof. S.N. Ratha, a close associate of Prof. Bhowmick, recalls that Bhowmick's ethnographic research revealed that "... about a third of the population in the Midnapur district were accused of crimes such as dacoity, burglary, pilferage, theft, etc. Many of them were serving prison sentences, leaving their children destitute on the streets... Bhowmick aimed to redirect the Lodha away from criminal activities, engaging them while they were young and instilling social values in a residential school" (Ratha 1991: 6-7). Motivated by his mentor, Prof. Nirmal Kumar Bose, Prof. Bhowmick established the Samaj Sevak Sangh and subsequently the Institute for Social Research and Applied Anthropology in the small village of Bagabhera, near Narayangarh Police Station in West Midnapur district, primarily for the benefit of the Lodha community. He named this place 'Bidisha' and dedicated his life to elevating the living standards of the Lodha and integrating them into mainstream society. I had the privilege of visiting Bidisha several times during the annual conventions organized by Prof. Bhowmick, which brought together anthropologists and social workers from different corners of India to exchange ideas about the development of indigenous communities. Instances like Alan Holmberg's study of the Siriano of Bolivia, Sol Tax and his students' study of the Fox Indians, and Bhowmick's study of the Lodha showcase the same genre—primarily participatory intervention consciously conducted by anthropologists, which we now refer to as Public Anthropology.


Ladies and Gentlemen, I am acutely aware that I am addressing anthropologists from around the world, both seasoned professionals and newcomers, and I wouldd like to share a confession on behalf of us all. While we immerse ourselves in the study and comprehension of vastly diverse human societies through extensive ethnographic fieldwork, Anthropology, unfortunately, is often absent from many public debates today. Our field has become so specialized, and our academic jargon so abundant, that our writings might not resonate in local or national newspapers and popular magazines, as was common with the works of Franz Boas, Margaret Mead, and Ruth Benedict. Rarely are we invited to or do we participate in public discussions through print or electronic media, let alone in policy formulation. Are we hesitant to engage, or are we engrossed in our research to the point of neglecting public involvement? Observing this scenario, Thomas Hylland Eriksen takes a candid look at why Anthropology has not garnered the recognition and respect it deserves. He remarks, "Anthropologists possess an extensive amount of knowledge about human lives, and most are profoundly knowledgeable about what sets people apart and what unites us. Yet, there appears to be a reluctance within our profession to share this knowledge with a wider readership. The task of translating across cultures is integral to our work; however, translating for the benefit of readers outside our discipline seems less pressing. Anthropological articles and monographs tend to be dense, specialized, and, quite frankly, dull. Frequently, they get bogged down in details, allowing the larger picture to fade from view" (Eriksen 2020: Preface).


The current global crises have issued a resounding call to all anthropologists worldwide to become engaged, ethically responsible, and accountable in safeguarding the planet from catastrophe. The imperative of the moment demands that anthropologists transcend disciplinary confines, address broader issues for the public good, and actively participate in broader public discourse to effect societal changes. If necessary, we must express our robust dissent against obstructive institutional structures and hegemonic paradigms that hinder our public engagement. Our meaningful participation, involving sharing our engaged and ethically grounded ethnographic insights in the media and social platforms, is crucial—no matter how daunting it may seem.


Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to return to the second question I posed earlier: how does our anthropological training and practice contribute to achieving global peace coupled with social justice? It's evident that social justice can only be attained in a peaceful environment, and peace is an essential prerequisite for sustainable development. Anthropology has the potential to illuminate the complex global landscape plagued by conflicts and disputes through its theoretical foundations, methodologies, and practical applications. We recognize that our strengths as anthropologists lie in our capacity to deeply understand diverse human societies. Our strength is in translating this understanding across cultural boundaries and in upholding ethical considerations and a commitment to social justice (Strang 2021: 25). In the context of conflict resolution—whether local or global—anthropological skills are invaluable. Anthropologists serve as effective collaborators and cultural mediators, providing a holistic approach to research that is grounded in ethnographic insights (Ibid: 159).


Before proceeding further, let us understand what peace is. Many of us would agree that peace is simply the absence of war and violence. However, it is, in fact, much more than that. Sam Hardy writes that it is "... not the absence of conflict – but the ability to manage conflict constructively, as an important opportunity for change and increased understanding. Peace is a commitment to understanding, celebrating, and learning from differences. Peace is a commitment not to harm, but also to nurture all individuals" (https://peacerevolution.net/wall/topic-380/what-is-peace#/). Similarly, the Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung has defined peace "... not merely as the absence of violence but as a positive state or condition of harmony. It is determined by loving, harmonious acts which elicit the good in each other (direct peace), by fair and horizontal relationships (structural peace), and by a culture of peace (cultural peace)"


History is replete with findings that humans are warlike by their very nature. This is no less than a confirmatory portrayal of human brutality and the ubiquity of aggression and warfare among human groups. In a remarkable and fascinating book titled "Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence," biological anthropologists Richard Wrangham and Dale Paterson have traced the evolutionary roots of war phobia among many non-human species by observing that "Chimpanzee-like violence preceded and paved the way for human war, making modern humans the dazed survivors of a continuous, 5-million-year habit of lethal aggression" (1996). Many great scientists like Thomas Hobbes, Jonathan Swift, Thomas Huxley, Sigmund Freud, Francis Crick, and others have accepted the popular belief that warring has been a part of human nature.


Even archaeological evidence is also plentiful to indicate that war between groups was not uncommon in the Holocene, which began 11,000 years BP. When the human population increased and there was a transition from nomadic hunting-foraging to sedentary lifestyles, warring activities intensified. Therefore, archaeological findings are replete with skeletal remains reflecting trauma and violent death, trophy-taking, scalping, and so on (Fry and Souillac 2023). With the prevalence of burial data from the middle and upper Palaeolithic periods, archaeologists have indicated inter-group violence and possible cannibalism among the Neanderthals. Even the Neolithic rock art panels from the Spanish Levant reveal a small army of men with bows and arrows engaged in war, with arrows piercing through the torsos of some, arguably corroborating violent activities in prehistoric times (Guilaine and Zammit 2005). Neolithic cities with fortifications and lethal weapons found in Neolithic burials perhaps indicate prehistoric inter-group violence.


On the contrary, many ethnographers have tried to prove through their studies that although feuds or blood revenging are prevalent in many tribal societies, they are "rare or absent" in some others (See Ember and Ember 1992; Otterbein 2004). In some cases, non-warring societies organize themselves into peace systems that do not engage in war among themselves (Fry 2006, 2012; Souillac and Fry 2015). Archer (2003) has drawn our attention to the fact that the five Nordic Nations have not warred among each other since 1815 and redress their disputes through negotiations. Therefore, peaceful coexistence among many societies is not impossible, although human history has witnessed many devastating wars in the past and is experiencing many wars even at the present time. The question then remains, does our anthropological training and skills offer us any clue for establishing war-free or feud-free societies at the local level that could be extrapolated for a sustainable peaceful world order?

Based on ethnographic research by various anthropologists in different societies worldwide, Fry et al. (2021) have proposed the concept of 'Peace System,' which is a cluster of neighbouring societies that do not make war (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-020-00692-8). Drawing data from Upper Xinhu, Iroquois Confederacy, peninsular Malaysia, the Nilgiri Hills region, and other cases, Fry has hypothesized that multiple factors contribute to sustainable peace systems, including (1) an overarching common identity in addition to local identities, (2) a high degree of prosocial interconnectedness among the social units within a system, (3) interdependence among the social units, (4) core values and norms that are non-warring and peace-favouring, (5) narratives, rituals, ceremonies, and symbols that reinforce peaceful values, norms, beliefs, and conduct, (6) superordinate institutions, (7) mechanisms for nonviolent intergroup conflict management, and (8) visionary peace leadership (Ibid.).


Anthropologists working among hunter-gatherer societies have succinctly demonstrated that conflicts in these societies are rare. However, if there is any intra-group conflict, it is resolved collectively, as these societies are mostly acephalous. But inter-group conflicts, according to Ellis (2008), are mostly resolved non-violently by simple processes of fission and fusion without offending any of the parties. Draper (1978) has shown various forms of social pressures, such as gossip, shunning, ridicule, ostracism, and public debating, which are extremely effective in avoiding conflicts among hunter-gatherers.


Among pastoral nomads, the main source of conflict is usually control over and access to natural resources, particularly land, pasture, and water. Sometimes, livestock raids and politically initiated conflicts are also noticed among pastoralists. Intra-group and domestic conflicts among pastoral nomads are resolved within the group by the elders in most cases, while inter-group conflicts are resolved through peaceful negotiations. At the end of the negotiation, the conflicting groups partake in a common meal, declaring the end of conflict.


The peace system, or what I call the 'conflict management system,' in rural India is interesting and worth analyzing. In India, we have had various stable social governance systems for centuries known by various names, such as khaap, jajmani, bara balutedar, gaon burah, etc., which resolved intra-community as well as inter-community conflicts amicably at the local levels. With the introduction of the policing system and modern judiciary in post-Independent India, although these conflict management systems have become less effective, their vestiges can be seen in many regions of the country.


I had the privilege of closely observing the system of conflict management among two Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) of India – the Dongria Kondh of Odisha and the Konda Reddi of Andhra Pradesh. The tribal justice and conflict management system among the Indian tribes are largely founded on trust and respect for community elders. There is always a fear of supernatural sanction for any wrongdoing, which refrains the members of the community from acting against the basic values of the community.


The Dongria Kondh live in the Rayagada district of South Odisha and are primarily hill cultivators and horticulturists. The system of traditional social control among them rests on village leaders and the village council. The village secular as well as ritual head is called Jani, who commands respect from everyone in the community. All kinds of disputes within the village are first brought to the notice of the Jani. Disputes may range from cases of elopement to extra-marital affairs, domestic violence, animal theft, land disputes, etc. Considering the nature of the dispute, Jani calls for a meeting of the village council if he feels that he cannot settle the dispute. The decision of the Jani as the chairperson or the village council, as the case may be, is final and binding on the culprit. Jani is assisted by another functionary, the Bismajhi, who assists the Jani in all matters and presides over meetings in the absence of the Jani. Another functionary of the social control among the Dongria Kondh is the Barika, who is a messenger and belongs to a different community. He also assists the Jani and the Bismajhi in all matters. He announces meetings, dates of rituals, births and deaths, etc., and liaisons between the Dongrias and the officials of the plains. If there is an inter-village dispute, it is addressed by both the Janis of the concerned villages. If the dispute still remains unresolved, the matter is placed before the Mandal, who is the head of a Mutha. Mutha is a socio-political organization of a cluster of Dongria villages. This elaborate system of conflict management does not necessitate the people to turn to the police and the modern judiciary (Ota and Mohanty 2007).


Another example of conflict management with which I am familiar is that of the Konda Reddi, who are also hill cultivators. Each Konda Reddi village has a chief or Pedda Kapu, who decides disputes arising in the village. He is assisted by a village council with representatives from all the households of the village. The Pedda Kapu is assisted by a junior chief or Pina Kapu. All cases of elopement, divorce, domestic quarrels, land disputes, theft, adultery, incest, etc., are brought to the notice of the Pedda Kapu for his decision in consultation with all the households. Pina Kapu temporarily officiates as the chief of the village in the absence of the Pedda Kapu. Disputes between villages are decided by the Kula Pedda, who is the chief of a cluster of nearby Konda Reddi villages, whose decisions are final and binding on all community members. Oath and ordeal are the major modes of evidence. Once a person takes an oath in the name of their supreme deity, it is believed that the person is confessing the truth. Any breach of societal norms is believed to affect the entire community in the forms of natural disasters like epidemics, crop loss, livestock diseases, floods, and droughts, etc. (Madhusudan Rao 2016, Misra 2021). Therefore, the Konda Reddi refrain from aggression of any kind unless they are sufficiently provoked.


Ladies and Gentlemen, an anthropologist is trained to understand and respect enormous cultural diversity, fostering greater empathy and respect for one another, thus reducing ethnocentrism, hatred, conflicts, and war. Since anthropologists possess in-depth cross-cultural understanding, they can easily identify the underlying causes of conflict and can better mediate in the process of reconciliation. Anthropologists are better equipped to document human rights abuses, particularly among indigenous and marginalized communities, and help build inter-community peace and social justice. Their understanding of the interface between culture and environment helps them create awareness about protecting and preserving the environment, thereby fostering peaceful cooperation in natural resource management. Therefore, anthropological training can always be a powerful tool in administering justice and global peace, although the contributions of other stakeholders are equally important.


How can one talk about global peace when a significant section of humanity, the majority of whom are constituted by indigenous people, are still suffering from poverty, malnutrition, social exclusion, and discrimination? It is their call for social justice that forms the fundamentals on which global peace ought to be negotiated between warring communities across the globe. Our prime concern as practicing scholars is to give voice to those seeking redressal from cultural, political, and economic exploitation, as well as historical injustices. The counter-hegemonic resistance of indigenous people has been supported by anthropological advocacy ever since the incident of genocide of tribes in the Amazon.


I am very optimistic that this 5-day World Congress will explore multiple avenues for global peace and harmony for the sustainable development of humankind, particularly of indigenous and tribal people around the world. It is now well understood that Anthropology as a discipline can lend a powerful voice to non-hegemonic and marginalized cultural perspectives on both global peace and development, ensuring social justice for tribal and autochthonous people. Since global peace and development are multi-layered processes and Anthropology promotes the tradition of multifaceted thinking that ranges from the local to the global and traverses the space in between, the discipline can unveil new dimensions in promoting lasting peace and sustained human development.


Let me reiterate the fact that living peacefully is neither preposterous nor indiscreet but has remained as the basic value of many civilizations. Anthropology can enormously contribute to understanding the system of peace and mollifying conflicts. I wish that each one of us remains engaged with world communities, participates in public debates, media, and social network platforms, and collectively creates an aura of equity, social justice, and sustainable global peace. As a school student, I was taught to chant a verse in my morning prayers from the Taittariya Upanishad (2.2.2), which encourages the spirit of peaceful coexistence by chanting the following:


ॐ सह नाववतु । सह नौ भुनक्तु । सहवीर्यं करवावहै । तेजस्वि नावधीतमस्तु । मा विद्विषावहै ।। ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः।।


The literal meaning of this mantra is: “OM. Let all of us protect each other together, may all of us enjoy together, may all of us work together and let our study become radiant. Let there be no hatred between us, OM Peace, Peace, Peace.”

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[1]My sincere thanks are due to Prof. Shalina Mehta, Professor (Retired) of Anthropology, Panjab University, Chandigarh, for many academic inputs that have gone into this address. I am deeply obliged to Dr. Adiroopa Mukherjee, KISS (DU), for her editorial support. [2]Salt Satyagraha or Salt March, Dandi March, or Dandi Satyagraha was one of the major non-violent protests in pre-Independence India against the British colonial policy of government’s salt monopoly and imposition of taxes on salt procurement from sea. It was led by Mahatma Gandhi. It started on 12th March 1930 and ended on 6th April 1930. As the March started it only had 80 people, but as it grew stronger with 50,000 protestors, it became a historical protest in the Indian History and a huge step in the freedom struggle of India. [3]In 1942 the Indian National Congress led by Mahatma Gandhi launched Quit India movement against the British on 8th August. The slogan of the movement was ‘Quit India’ or ‘Bharat Chodo’. [4][4] Swadeshi movement, officially launched in 1905 after the partition of Bengal refers to a comprehensive movement that sought to oppose the British rule in India and to encourage self-help, use of home-grown goods, national education and use of Indian languages. This movement boycotted all British goods and institutions in India.

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