Map representing geopolitical scene in 1950 / Adapted from Majumdar et al. 1953

Social and Political Factors in Post-Colonial Indian Archaeology: The Case of Sanghol, Punjab


In this paper, I present the case of Sanghol, Punjab, in Indian archaeology to highlight the influence of social and political factors on the interpretation of archaeological data and the preservation of cultural heritage. Using a geographic approach, I show how geopolitical tensions and the desire for internal political stability influenced archaeological practices in post-colonial India. In the aftermath of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, local archaeological investigations in Sanghol, located 200 kilometres from the sensitive Pakistan-India frontline, piqued the interest of the Archaeological Survey of India, the national department for archaeology and heritage management. The Survey subsequently carried out collaborative field studies in Sanghol between 1986 and 1990, reflecting the changing relationship between the local community and the national government at a time of intense political uncertainty. I argue that there is greater competition and collaboration between knowledge producers in Indian archaeology than has been accepted. This, in turn, impacts our understanding of the practice of national archaeology.

In Bulletin of the History of Archaeology