National Webinar on Holistic Approach of Anthropology

A three day National Webinar on Holistic Approach of Anthropology was organized by the Department of Anthropology, Arya Vidyapeeth College in association with IQAC, Arya Vidyapeeth College under the DBT Star College Scheme from 24th August-26th August 2020. The Webinar was inaugurated by Hon’ble V.C. of Cotton University Prof Bhabesh Chandra Goswami. In the brief inaugural session, the welcome address was delivered by the Head of the Department of Anthropology, Dr. Bandita Medhi Deka. The Principal of Arya Vidyapeeth College, Dr. Pradip Kumar Bhattacharyya spoke a few words of encouragement and support on the occasion. The Keynote Address was delivered by Prof. Vinay Kumar Srivastava, Director of Anthropological Survey of India. The convener of the Webinar was Dr. Anamika Gogoi Duara, Associate Professor, and it was rapporteured by Dr. Jyotirupa Sarma, Assistant Professor, both from the Dept. of Anthropology, Arya Vidyapeeth College.

Prof. Srivastava deliberated on the topic “Social Anthropology Today: Perspective on Holism, Advocacy and Praxis”. Prof Srivastava said the Anthropology is a discipline without boundaries or barriers. He elaborated on how the four branches of Anthropology, as divided by the American anthropological Association _Biological Anthropology, Archaeological Anthropology and SocioCultural Anthropology are interlinked by citing the example that Medical Anthropology can be studied by all the anthropologists. He commented that all the four branches of anthropology can be combined under two divisions of study – Biogenetic expression and Socio-Cultural expression. Referring to his personal experiences in the field in Rajasthan, Prof Srivastava mentioned that anthropologists sometimes become interventionists as well. Anthropology, according to Prof Srivastava is a generalizing, comparative and historical science. Research in anthropology is four pronged_ pure, applied, policy and action(PAPA). The research methodology of anthropology is now gaining importance in other disciplines like Economics and Political Science.

On the first day, Prof. Sarit Choudhuri of the Department of Anthropology, Rajiv Gandhi University, Itanagar and former Director of IGRMS, Bhopal delivered his lecture on “Holism in Anthropology”. He started by explaining that anthropology is a subject with no boundaries. Referring to the book titled “Experiments in Holism”, Prof. Choudhuri explained that anthropology studies human societies in the entirety. Anthropologists not only focus on regional or local societies but they study societies globally.

The third session of the day was delivered by Dr. Upala Barua, HoD of Anthropology, Cotton University on the topic “Anthropological Understanding of Intellectual Disability”. Intellectual disabilities are of a complex range and have different causes and manifestations. Elaborating on the factors and causes, Dr. Barua said that the holistic approach helps in understanding intellectual disabilities.

The speaker of the first session on 25/8/2020 was Dr.S.B. Ota, Former Joint Director General, A.S.I. and Tagore National Fellow. He spoke on the topic “Journey into Deep human history Investigation of Acheulian sites in Central India”. In his lecture Dr.Ota spoke on understanding Archeology in relationship with man’s adaptation with different environment along with its development of culture. He said that culture is Men extra somatic means of adaptation.Dr Ota focused on certain principles for every Archeologist that were-understanding past human behavior and reconstruct of past lifeways, beyond lithics-adding fresh and blood to lithic artifacts, avoid step mother attitude towards lithic debitage, be more methodical. Dr Ota gave detail information of Tikoda site where detail study was conducted by him. He spoken on the development of Acheulian industry along with its intra and inter settlement pattern in the area that forms a single geo-environmental unit. He also ascertains the transformation of Acheulian industry from earlier to later stage. Detail information about Acheulian Dump was given by him. Acheulian dump contains mostly large size artifacts which show some degree abrasion on the surface. Detail information on Palaeo-magnetic dating for sample collection was explained by Dr Ota. A detail information on sandstone weathering Pattern study along with the presence of Bivalve and Ostrich Egg shell fragment found in that site was explained given by him. A study on different cracks that was noticed in the excavated area was vividly presented by Dr Ota. Phytoliths –Bulliform fan shaped, Elongated woody element, elongated branched, bulliform fan and rectangular type ,trichome pointed, different starch grains, pollens of different varieties were found in this site was explained in a detail manner. Dr Ota gave information of the Recycled Artifacts found at Damdongri. It was truly a very informative session.

In the second session, the speaker was Prof Kishor K.Basa, Tagore National Fellow and Former Director, Indian Museum, Kolkata & IGRMS, Bhopal. He dwelt on the topic “Anthropological Museums in the Contemporary World”. Prof. Basa spoke on Museums that were found in different part of the world. His lecture comprises of discussion on Museums from three parts-Theoretical perspectives, Anthropolocical Museums in the world, examples from India-Anthropological Museums and Museums with Anthropological perspectives. He discussed the theoretical perspectives such as globalization, post colonization, ecomuseology and new museology as a background of contemporary anthropological museums. He spoke on the assertion of the indigenous people has led to their recognition as the ‘first people’ in leading western museums as well as repatriation of their ancestral skeletal remains as an important policy of western museums dealing with indigenous culture. He also cited examples of the anthropological museums such IGRMS, Bhopal, Tribal Museums in various states and in universities as a teaching aids. The do and learn programme, indoor museums, open air exhibition are unique to IGRMS Campus, Tribal museum SCSTRTI Bhubaneswar, Tribal museum Bhopal etc. He also cited the names of some unique museum such as Partition museum, Amritsar where world’s first Partition museum was located where stories of Partition, record of largest migration and documents and artifacts related with those dark fears were preserved and documented in this museum. He also cited some private museums such as People’s Museum, Kakching, Manipur established with great enthusiasm of Sri M. Gourachandra Singh and it composed of objects of archeological, ethnological and paleontological values. Likewise the Peace Museum of Imphal which stands as a tribute to the soldiers and civilians who lost their lives and also narrates the experiences of the Manipuri’s during the War. Museums outside India such as National Museum of American Indian, Canadian Museum of History, Museum of New Zealand and many other Museums their importance were explained in details. He focused that everyone should take initiative to maintaining a museum in their homes itself and then only we can preserve our tradition and culture for future generation.

Worrel Kumar Bain, Department of Anthropology, Gauhati University delivered a lecture on “Understanding Soanian Occurrences at Bam locality of Siwalik Frontal range, North-western India” in the last session of the day. W.K. Bain spoke on Swalik deposits as one of the important fluvial sequences in the world comprised of mudstones, sandstones and coarsely bedded conglomerates and these sediments were deposited by rivers flowing southwards from the Greater Himalayas, resulting in extensive multi-ordered drainage systems. W.K.Basin has presented his presentation on the basis of his study done in Bam village at Ghumarwin area of Bilaspur. Indian subcontinent’s prehistoric culture is any event apparent from the rich lithic artifacts, mostly the shaping of tools and related debitages. Ghumarwin region of Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh is well established in the world’s Paleo-anthropological map for finding the fossil remains of Late Miocene apes. The Soanian lithic assemblages of Bam are a component of the widespread flake and cobble tool tradition of the Paleolithic phase of north-western India. Bain’s objectives of this study is to study and systematically record the area before losing all the stone age cultural evidence of our evolutionary history due to ongoing development works. He spoke on the nature of Stone Age artefacts of the site and its typo-technological orientation. His investigation looks at the preliminary approach to landscape to deal with the archeological material of the site. W. K.Bain spoke on the typo technological method that was used to analyze the lithic artifact at the site. He also spoke of the Pedestrian surveys methods for identifying potential zone. The unique diversity of Soanian lithic remains from Bam sheds light on the different types of specialized functions that prehistoric man has embraced in this region. The studied area, its geographical setting and other important features, satellite imagery and detail geological, geomorphological and topographical maps have been show which makes the topic clearer.
The third day began with the lecture on “Biocultural Approaches in Anthropology” by Prof. Subho Roy, Department of Anthropology, University of Calcutta. Prof Roy spoke on the ecology of mankind from a variety of perspective including health and welfare, environmental physiology, population genetics, child growth, demography and so on. He explains the relationship that exists between biological and cultural anthropologist. He cited examples of a series of case studies of traditional populations in different ecosystems that attempted to integrate the work done by biological anthropologist with that of ecologically oriented cultural anthropologists. He spoke of Epidemiological approaches where Epidemiology and Medical anthropology began from a common objective, namely to explain the health of human populations using observation techniques. Prof Roy give importance on evolution of biological features of human beings, variation in fertility pattern across different population ,variation in growth pattern, variation in disease prevalence across different population. Prof Roy lecture also focuses on how culture plays an important role in human reproductive health and strategy and how people survive in different ecological stress condition. He also spoke on Reproductive ecology or Evolutionary ecology of human reproduction which is the application of natural selection theory to the study of human reproductive strategies and decision making in an ecological context. He also spoke on cultural construct of menopause-understanding of people towards menopause, towards menopausal problems and management and also understanding of the people towards postmenopausal life and sex life after menopause. Prof. Roy concluded by speaking on the Research undertaken in Biological Anthropology which can contribute effectively to scientific enquiry when it integrates the biological and social sciences. Thus Biocultural framework allows anthropologist to explore a wide range of research topics, using different measures of fitness ranging from population structure to reproductive success or rate of childhood growth.

Prof.Sarthak Sengupta, Former Head, Department of Anthropology, Dibrugarh University deliberated on the topic “Integrated Bio-Anthropological Approaches: A few less Trodden Areas” in the second session of the day. Prof. Sengupta spoke on the history of Physical anthropology which began with a focus on biological differences in morphological features along with the evolutionary approaches of the “New Physical Anthropology. His lecture also focused on the study of human remains, specially bones and teeth which enrich our knowledge our knowledge of early population in a wide range of areas from health and medicine to social and ethnological aspects and living condition and lifestyle. He also spoke on two different schools of thought-North American and French. North American palaeo-demographers mainly concentrated on estimating individual age at death and drawing up mortality tables based on remains from burial sites while the French palaeo-demographers developed less ambitious but statistically more rigorous methods. Prof Sengupta also cited the role of Palaeo-demographer who study skeletal sample, either freshly excavated or stored in museum collection, or sequence to get an idea of demographic behavior. He cited some examples of some interesting research work related with acclimatization or adaptive plasticity .It is truly a very interesting session.

In the last session of the webinar Dr Chandana Sarmah, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Gauhati University deliberated on “Understanding Ageing From An Anthropological Perspective”. Dr Sarmah spoke on the process of cellular changes with ageing. Human have over evolutionary time developed multiple levels of protection from senescent changes. Dr Sarmah highlighted on the Biocultural model of evolution. The ageing process assessed from biomarkers and the dilemma of distinguishing between normal ageing and biological alteration which are secondary to ageing. She spoke on the senescent changes that can be observed in hair, skin, auditory and visual acuity, muscular weakness, menopause in women, some loss in short term memory etc. She highlighted on senescence which may be genetically determined by two processes: Antagonistic pleiotropy and Mutation accumulation age-specific gene action. Dr Sarmah also spoke on the evolutionary theory of senescence. Dr Sarmah also focuses on the ageing studies in Assam with reference to ethnic communities where estimation of age at menopause among different communities has been done in anthropological demographic studies in the latter half of last century. She also spoke on the chronic degenerative disease and ageing, where increase in longevity –declining health status, increasing number of co-morbid chronic diseases. She also spoke on the relationship that exist between nutrition and ageing where with age requirement for energy decline, protein remains stable, while high fat diet and obesity leads to coronary heart disease, diabetes and reduce life expectancy. Dr Sarmah also spoke on the anthropological genetics of ageing where aspects of heredity within population having anthropological significance, citing examples of some long lived population – Hunzas of Pakisthan, inhabitants of Vilcabamba of Equador, Abkhazians of Caucasus, and Okinawa of Japan. Dr Sarmah also spoke on body composition and ageing. Dr Sarmah also spoke on Primate Gerontology where physiological changes with age in primates show similarities with human. Thus biological anthropology and human biology have undertaken studies on multiple interesting aspects of human ageing.

In the valedictory session, the co-coordinator of IQAC, AV College, Dr. Gitanjali Hazarika delivered a brief speech. The formal vote of thanks was delivered by the convener of the Webinar, Dr. Anamika Gogoi Duarah.


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