Across the interface of state ethnography: Rethinking ethnology and its subjects in multicultural India

by C. Townsend Middleton

In this article, I ask how state ethnography deploys, demands, and ultimately instantiates the ethnological forms of a particular multicultural order. Extending recent interests in paraethnographics, I take as my “object” the interface of state ethnography itself. Specifically, I examine an ethnographic survey government anthropologists conducted in Darjeeling to determine the eligibility of ten ethnic groups seeking recognition as Scheduled Tribes of India. Refiguring the proverbial encounter of anthropologists and tribes, I interrogate the real-time dynamics through which both sides negotiate, take up, and take on normative ethnological paradigms—thus actualizing the ethno-logics of Indian multiculturalism within and, indeed, beyond the classificatory moment.