ANTHROPOLOGY Strategy: Devendra Kumar, Rank 97, Anthropology Marks 312,



Devendra Kumar

Rank 97, CSE 2016

Anthropology Marks 312 

Devendra Kumar Rank 97 Marks IAS

Anthropology – A Brief Introduction

Kluckhohn writes, Anthropology can be compared to a mirror into which man, without any labels of primitive or civilized, may look to understand and appreciate his own unbound physical and cultural variety.

Simply put, Anthropology studies man, in totality. It studies evolution and diversity among humans from social, cultural and biological point of view in an integrated fashion. For various historical and other reasons, the focus of Anthropology has been mostly on the study of tribes (at-least in the syllabus). You will learn more about these reasons once you opt for Anthropology.

Anthropology, like all other optional subjects, will require an in-depth study from wide and diverse sources. If you find the syllabus interesting (refer UPSC notification for complete syllabus), I would definitely recommend you to take Anthropology as an Optional.

Also, please keep in mind that it is almost impossible for me to write down everything I have read in 2.5 years in one article, although I’ll try my best to include all the key points.

Please do read strategy suggested by RajGopal Sunkara (here) and Kirthi Chekuri (here) before proceeding to read this article.

The article is broadly divided into following parts

  • Part one, Basic Book List and Other Resources
  • Part two, Answer Writing
  • Part three, Case Studies
  • Part four, Paper 2, Anthropology, CSE-2016 Sample Answers (Key Points Only)
  • Part five, Note taking
  • Part six, Conclusion and some other miscellaneous information.


First, Basic Book List and Other Resources*

Paper – 1

  • Social – Cultural Anthropology
    • An Introduction to Social Anthropology – D.N Majumdar and T.N. Madan (for basic understating of Anthropology)
    • An Introduction of Social Cultural Anthropology – N.K Vaid
    • Introducing Sociology – N.C.E.R.T Class 11
    • Anthropological Theories (Link)
  • Principles of Pre historic archaeology
    • “Measuring Time” (Chapter 2) of Indian Prehistory by D.K Bhattacharya
  • Prehistoric culture
  • Biological Anthropology
    • Physical Anthropology – P. Nath
    • Biology Class 12thC.E.R.T
    • K Vaid Printed Notes
  • Research Methods
    • K Vaid Printed Notes.

Paper 2

  • Prehistoric Indian Culture
    • S Sahay and Pradeep K Singh (This book has a concise summary of complete Prehistoric Indian culture; therefore I read from it and prepared a one page note, have shared it below. But I think it is currently unavailable in market. Other books you can refer for this topic are Indian Anthropology by Nadeem Hasnain or Ancient India by R.S Sharma (old NCERT) or D.K Bhattacharya or any other source.  
  • Indian Society
    • Indian Anthropology – Nadeem Hasnain
    • Indian Society – Class 12thC.E.R.T
    • Social Change and Development in India – Class 12thC.E.R.T
  • Tribal India

*Some Comments

  • I read the books based on the demand of the syllabus. I rarely read a book from cover to cover. Only selective reading is required for most of the above mentioned books.
  • Please feel free to add/drop resources mentioned above. For example, some students prefer to read Ember and Ember, Ram Ahuja, B.M Das etc. Some may prefer BrainTree material or Muniratnam printed material over Vaid Sir’s Material. Point to keep in mind is that no topic in syllabus should be left uncovered and should be covered in sufficient depth with good understanding.
  • Also the list above is not exhaustive. There are many other books from which I read one-two chapters only, borrowing them from my friends. For topics like caste, I discussed them with my friends having Sociology and Political Science as Optionals. Again the idea is simple, cover topics with sufficient depth.
  • Buying all the material may be expensive, hence share among your friends.

Second, Answer Writing

Answer writing in Anthropology especially Social-Cultural Anthropology can be little tricky. As part of Society, we know what marriage, family, kinship, religion etc. means. But the challenge is, our world-view is limited because we tend to look at these institutions from the prism of that part of society of which we are part of. It is therefore important that while writing about these social institutions we give definitions by Anthropologists/Sociologists, give ample and diverse examples, quote case studies so that a broader picture is depicted in our answers.

Practise Answer writing; otherwise it will be difficult to complete paper in exam. Answers should be written in proper paragraph format (unlike in GS wherein I preferred point format) consisting of Introduction, Body and Conclusion/Way Ahead.

Format for answer writing for questions related to Social-Cultural Anthropology, Biological Anthropology, Indian society and Tribal India is broadly the same. However, I’ll divide it into four sections so that relevant examples can be given for each section.


Paper 1

Social – Cultural Anthropology

  1. Introduction, among other things, can include Definitions, preferable as given by anthropologists/sociologists, as per the demand of the question. Example, define Social Anthropology and Sociology ( Q 1(a) Paper 1 CSE-2016) ; Cultural Relativism (Q 1(b) Paper 1 CSE – 2016) etc.  
  2. Use of diagrams, flow charts etc. For example, in a question related to Prehistory, World Map showing various sites across world can be drawn. Similarly, tool diagrams can also be drawn.
  3. Case Studies wherever possible. As discussed below, Criminal Tribes Act can be discussed on question related to Cultural Relativism and Ethnocentrism. Similarly, if a question comes on Relationship of Anthropology with Medical Science/Behavioural Science, following example can be given (Link)

Biological Anthropology

  1. Introduction, among other things, can include definition as per the demand of the question, like that of Forensic Anthropology (Q 5(e) Paper 1 CSE -2016), Epidemiological Anthropology (Q 7c Paper 1, CSE – 2016),Genetic counselling (Q 7(b) Paper 1 CSE-2016).
  2. Please try to draw as many diagrams as possible. Use technical/scientific terms in answers.   
  3. Case studies (if possible). P Nath, for instance, contains a few case studies related to genetic effect of consanguineous marriage and cousin marriage. Similarly this case study can be quoted on a question in Epidemiological Anthropology.

Paper 2

Indian Society

  1. Introduction, among other things, can include definitions, like that of Caste (Q 1(c) Paper 2 CSE-2016), Ethno-archaeology (Q 1(d) Paper 2 CSE-2016), Regionalism (Q 5(a) Paper 2 CSE-2016) etc.
  2. Flowcharts and diagrams will help. For example on question on various traditional patterns of settlement I drew diagrams of linear, scattered and clustered settlement patterns (Q 3(c) Paper 2 CSE-2016). Similarly Map of India and tools can be drawn on question on Mesolitic findings (Q 1(a) Paper 2 CSE-2016)
  3. Case Studies, Reports, Committee recommendations, Examples, Facts, Data etc., as per the demand of the question should be given. Will help a lot, especially on questions related to Caste; Impact of globalisation on Indian villages; Media and Social Change; Social, Political and Economic status of religious and linguistic minorities.
  4. Gather views of sociologist and anthropologists like M.N Sinivas, S.C Dube, Rajani Kothari etc. on various topics like caste, religion etc. Take help from your friends having Sociology as an Optional.  

Tribal India

  1. Introduction, among many things, can include data, facts, definitions etc.
  2. Flow chart, diagrams helps. For example, diagram can be drawn depicting various factors responsible for exploitation of Scheduled Caste in India (Q-7(a) Paper 2 CSE-2016) and then these factors can be explained in detail along with case studies.
  3. Case Studies are very important for this section of Syllabus.
  4. Conclusion can include Way Ahead, Recommendations, Step being taken by Government etc.


Third, Case Studies

Case Studies are extremely important in Anthropology. I tried to include as many case studies, wherever it was possible, including for some answers in Paper 1. Some examples/case studies, for questions in CSE-2016, are listed below:

  • On question on Cultural Relativism (and Ethnocentrism), I wrote about Criminal Tribes Act, on how the act equated civilization with sedentary life and hence classified several nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes as Criminals by birth, thus stigmatising a complete section of society and their generations to come. Hence, why Cultural Relativism is important.
  • On question Epidemiological Anthropology as one of the case study, I quoted following article by National Geography, How the Fight Against Ebola Tested a Culture’s Tradition.
  • Impact of industrialisation on STs on population of Jharkhand(Question 5(c) CSE 2016, Paper 2), I gave case study by Tribal Research Institute, Ranchi (given in Xaxa committee report, refer Page 290)
  • Impact of tribal development programme and plans on social transformation among tribes(Question 7(a) CSE 2016, Paper 2), one of the case study I gave was related to PESA implementation in  Kamayyapeta in Vishakapatnam, Andhra Pradesh  and resultant social transformation among tribes (Google:- PESA, Left-Wing Extremism and Governance: Concerns and Challenges in India’s Tribal Districts, Ajay Dendekar and Chitrangada Choudhary; for the report)  

Case studies should be properly quoted. I tried my best to quote the person/institution that has done the case study. So for example, I read a case study studying Impact of Industrialisation on tribals in Jharkhand in Xaxa committee; however Xaxa committee has itself quoted it from a research done by Tribal Research Institute, Ranchi. I would try to remember and quote TRI, Ranchi and not Xaxa committee. If unable to recall, Xaxa committee can be quoted.

Therefore try to collect a good data bank of case studies, for almost complete Paper 2 and also Paper 1(wherever you think it is possible.)

Some places you can look for are:

Fourth, Paper 2- Anthropology-CSE 2016 Sample Answers (Key Points Only)

Following key points are produced from memory. I might have written extra or less points, then those mentioned below. Answers were written in paragraph format.   

1(a) Mesolithic finding:

  • Introduction  :- Time Period, Map with key Mesolithic sites, Tools(diagram), Climate
  • Body : – Key findings from Belan Valley
  • Conclusion:- Summed up everything

3(b) Give a critical assessment of ‘Negrito Problem’ in India

  • Introduction: Briefly Introduced Race, Guha’s Racial classification for India (names only), Characteristics of Negrito Race.
  • Body: Views of De quaterfages, Hutton, Guha, Sarkar, Majumdar, Eickstedt.
  • Conclusion: Broadly agreeing with Sarkar’s view

(Refer P.Nath book)


5(e) Anthropological interpretation of ethnic and political movements

  • Introduction: Defined ethnicity as defined by Phadnis, wherein he summarised ethnicity under five heads, a) subjective belief in real or assumed historical antecedents b) symbolic or real geographical centre c) shared cultural emblem such as race, language etc. d) self-ascribed awareness of distinctiveness and belongingness to the group e) recognition of others of group differentiation.
  • Body: Gave various anthropological interpretation i.e Primordialist approach, Modernization and development approach, Marxist and neo Marxist approach. (from Vaid Sir’s Printed Notes)

7(c) Impact of tribal development programmes and plans on social transformation among tribes.

  • Introduction: Briefly wrote about Article 46, vision of our forefathers wrt. Tribes in independent India, and subsequent Government of India intervention in tribal development programmes.
  • Body: Broadly divided Plans and Programmes under Political, Social, and Economic sub heads. Under Political head covered PESA and FRA. For PESA gave case study of its implementation in Kamayyapeta in Vishakapatnam, Andhra Pradesh and its positive impact (discussed under sub head Case Studies). Under Social covered various programmes like Ashram Schools, Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship etc and their impact on educational status of tribals (data and facts included). Under Economic head covered, NSTFDC, TRIFED, TSP etc. and their impact on economic status of tribal(data and fact) , giving a successful case study (discussed under sub head Case Studies)
  • Conclusion/Way Ahead: What more steps can be taken (Xaxa committee contains many recommendations which can be given here).      

8(b) Write in detail various provisions provided by Constitution of India for Scheduled tribes under Vth and VIth Schedule.

  • Introduction: Briefly explained need for/idea behind Vth and VIth schedule
  • Body:
    • Vth Schedule provisions : Role of Parliament, Role of Governor, Role of President, Role of Tribal Advisory Committee.
    • Critical evaluation of Vth Schedule: Critique of Role of Governors and TAC(from Xaxa Committee)
    • Vth Schedule provisions: Legislative Power, Judicial Powers, Financial Powers of District Councils. Powers of Governor and President.
    • Critical evaluation of VIth Schedule: (from Xaxa Committee)
      • Generic issues: Lack of proper understanding, State government maintaining parallel developmental apparatus etc.
      • Issues with District Councils in Assam, like, disparity between legislative, financial and judicial powers of three councils in Assam. Bololand Council, for example, has more administrative power compared to other three but no judicial powers.
      • Issues with District Councils in Meghalaya, for example, Restriction in power of ADC of Meghalaya as legislation passed by State Government take precedence over those passed by Council.
      • Issues with District Councils in Mizoram, like, not getting sufficient attention from State Government,  
    • Conclusion/Way Ahead
      • Recommendations, as given in Xaxa committee.

Five, Note Making

Try to prepare short notes for every word in the syllabus. Chose a style you are comfortable with: in notebooks, in loose sheets, online in Evernote, or simply marking them in books. This will help in quick revision during Mains exams. While preparing notes try to note down definitions, examples, diagrams, case studies, facts, data, reports,  views of anthropologists/sociologists/political scientists (on topics like caste, religion) etc.    

Following is a two page note of Indian Pre-history I prepared from Sahay and Singh. This is just for reference purpose, you many not be able to understand what is written here.

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Lastly,Conclusion/Miscellaneous Information

Practise answer writing. In my last attempt, I left question worth 80-100 marks unanswered/partially answered despite knowing the answers very well. Use of diagrams, flowcharts will help you communicate more information using fewer words and also help save time.

Quoting Anthropologist, Sociologists, Various Reports, Case Studies, Examples, Facts etc. shows you are well read and that your answer is well researched. A proper Introduction, Body, Conclusion format will provide a neat structure to your answers.   

Anthropology, like all other Optionals, will require in-depth study; therefore, it is important that you take up Anthropology if you find the syllabus interesting.

Lastly, no two individuals are same. You may have a completely different strategy, book list, answer writing style which may be equally good or even better. If you find that comfortable, stick to it. To repeat myself, just ensure, that complete syllabus is covered in sufficient depth.

Hope, the above article helps you. Wishing you the very best.