Prof. MN Srinivas

Prof. MN Srinivas

16 November 1916 - 30 November 1999


Prof MN Srinivas was the first JRD Tata Visiting Professor at NIAS. He was a world-renowned social anthropologist and an international authority on Indian society, in particular the caste system. He wrote several books on these and related subjects, including The Remembered Village, which has become a classic of sociological literature. His work includes a collection of essays entitled Indian Society through Personal Writings and an edited volume on Caste: Its 20th Century Avatar. Weeks before his death, Prof Srinivas spoke at NIAS on Obituary on Caste as a System, setting out his view that the old economic and social relationships that were characteristic of the caste system had broken down, but that caste had survived as a means for securing access to resources of different kinds. Prof Srinivas held a variety of other distinguished positions in India and abroad; these included Joint Director at ISEC, Bangalore, Professor of Sociology at the Universities of Delhi and Baroda, and visiting positions at many famous overseas universities including Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford, Cornell and Canberra. He was widely honoured for his work within the country and abroad. He passed away on 30th November 1999 and he was 83.


Prof. M.N. Srinivas was a pioneering sociologist/social anthropologist who received his higher education at the Universities of Bombay and Oxford. Returning to India in 1951, he established the Department of Sociology at M.S. University, Baroda and later, in 1959, the Department of Sociology at the Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University. He was also a co-founder of the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore. He joined NIAS in 1992 and held the J.R.D. Tata Chair until his death in 1999. 

Prof M N Srinivas is universally acknowledged to be the architect of modern Sociology and Social Anthropology in India. He held the position of JRD Tata Visiting Professor at NIAS from 1992 till he passed away on 30 November 1999. Being a keen observer and interpreter of social change in India, Prof Srinivas has written extensively since 1942 and has several books, papers and articles to his credit. . The book titled The Remember village published in 1970 has become a great classic of all times. Three of his renowned books titled Indian society through personal writings; Village, caste, gender and method and Caste: its twentieth century avatar reflects credit on NIAS.

Prof Srinivas also held a number of positions in his long and distinguished career. He has been widely honoured for his work within the country and abroad. To mention a few of them, he was a Fellow of the British Academy, Honorary Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute and Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was awarded the Padmabhushan and the T N Huxley Memorial Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute in 1976and the Kannada Rajyothsava Award in 1996.

Through his work, Prof. M.N. Srinivas not only legitimised the study of one’s own society by anthropologists (who traditionally studied ‘other’ societies), but also strongly advocated field-based research in Indian sociology. His work on religion, caste, village societies, politics, and social change led him to develop new perspectives on India, including the persistence (but also transformation) of caste as both a social system and as central to political processes in the newly independent nation. He coined several key terms that have not only gained currency in Indian sociology but have also become part of the common lexicon, such as ‘dominant caste’, ‘sanskritization’, and ‘vote bank’.  Through his significant contributions to the body of sociological knowledge, his key role in the establishment of several departments and programmes of sociology – where he insisted that sociology and social anthropology be combined – and through training many of the next generation of prominent Indian sociologists, Prof. M.N. Srinivas was the most influential leader of the sociological profession in India.

Research in the areas of Sociology and Social Anthropology was initiated at NIAS in 1997 by Prof. M.N. Srinivas, when he held the J.R.D. Tata Chair. Prof. Srinivas sought to expand and reinforce ethnography and field-based social research as key methods for understanding contemporary India. In addition, he was keen that NIAS engage in sociological research that would lend itself to interdisciplinary endeavours

  • Marriage and Family in Mysore(1942)
  • Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India (1952, 2003)
  • India's Villages (1960)
  • Caste in Modern India, And Other Essays (1962)
  • India: Social Structure(1969, 1980, 1986)
  • The Remembered Village (1976, 1978, 1988, 1991)
  • Dimensions of Social Change in India (1977)
  • The Dominant Caste and Other Essays (1987,1994)
  • The Cohesive Role of Sanskritization and Other Essays(1989)
  • Indian Society through Personal Writings (1996, 1998)
  • On Living in a Revolution and Other Essays (1992)
  • Social Change in Modern India (1966, 1972)
  • Some Reflections on Dowry (1984)
  • Village, Caste, Gender and Method: Essays in Indian Social Anthropology (1996, 1998, 2001)
Edited volumes
  • The Fieldworker and the Field: Problems and Challenges in Sociological Investigation, co-edited with A.M. Shah and E. A. Ramaswamy (1979, 2002, 2004)
  • Caste: Its Twentieth Century Avatar(1996)
Collected essays
  • Collected Essays (Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2002)
  • The Oxford India Srinivas (Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2008)

In addition to his own work, several festschrifts and books and essays on the work and life of M.N. Srinivas have been published:


·       Social Structure and Change, edited by A.M. Shah, B.S. Baviskar, and E. A. Ramaswamy (Sage Publications, New Delhi, 1996, 1998). Five volumes:
Vol. I:   Theory and Method: Evaluation of the Work of M N Srinivas
Vol II:   Women in Indian Society
Vol III:  Complex Organizations and Urban Communities
Vol IV: Development and Ethnicity
Vol V:  Religion and Kinship

Books on Prof Srinivas:

·       M. N. Srinivas::The Man and his Work, edited by P.K. Misra, K.K. Basa and H.K. Bhat (Rawat Publications, Jaipur, 2007)