ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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In Memoriam: Satish Saberwal

With the demise of Satish Saberwal (1933-2010), we have lost one of the most important links between the modernising phase of Indian sociology and the nonconformists. He will be remembered as a reference point for many, and as an inspiration for those seeking to actively transcend the anthropological mode of inquiry and straddle an interface with the historian's concern.

Satish Saberwal passed away on 25 October 2010, and with him has gone one of the key mediating links between what can be termed the “modernising” phase of Indian sociology (broadly the 1950s) and the “nonconformists” (traceable to the 1970s). Saberwal’s work in many ways defies the characterisation that I have (following R Mukherjee) summarily set out. In fact, his formal advent into Indian academia was only in the late 1960s, having had a stint as fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla (1968-73), before taking up formal appointment as a sociologist in the Centre for Historical Studies (CHS), Jawaharlal Nehru University (1973-96). Saberwal’s work speaks to us in many ways, although the contextualisation effectively marks out his historical positioning in the landscape of the discipline.

He was 77 at the time of his death. He had written many books including Mobile Men: Limits to Social Change in Urban Punjab, India: The Roots of Crisis (subsequently enlarged as Roots of Crisis: Interpreting Contemporary Indian Society), Wages of Segmentation: Comparative Historical Studies on Europe and India, and Spirals of Contention: Why India Was Partitioned in 1947 (I am not citing here the many books that he either singly or jointly edited). He was and will remain a reference point for many – an inspiration, certainly, for those seeking actively to transcend the anthropological mode of inquiry and straddle an interface with the historian’s concern.

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