William Archer: Aesthete, Ethnographer and Administrator


Abstract I While it is crucial to recover Archer from the margins of present day anthropology and study his work on the Santals, it is also important to understand his shift from being an administrative officer to become a historian of art and a curator of Victoria and Albert Museum. Certainly, this shift was a way to survive when he quit the colonial service. The books and unpublished papers written by Archer concern various fields of “tribal” or “folk art” from the sculptures of the Ahir, to the discovery of Madhubani and Kalighat paintings. I analyze his unpublished papers now at the British Library, written in the late thirties and the fourties, as well as the testimony of his wife Mildred who shared his adventures and became a curator at the Indian Office Library. I point out the different shades of opinion reflected in his works as he strove to define his image of the Santals and to assert the status of tribal art. But Archer was also a socialist who tried to improve the colonial system of justice where the Adivasi were often victims.

Journal Article
William Archer: Aesthete, Ethnographer and Administrator
Journal of Adivasi and Indigenous Studies
Vol. X, No. 2, August 2020: 1–5 / Published by: Joais.in
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About the author

Prof. Dr. Marine Carrin (marinecarrin@hotmail.fr) is Director of Research emeritus (CNRS) at the Centre d‟Anthropologie Sociale, Toulouse. She is the author of La Fleur et l’Os: symbolisme et rituel chez les Santal, 1986); Enfants de la Déesse: prêtrise et dévotion féminine au Bengal (1997) (Children of the Goddess 2018); Le Parler des Dieux: le discours rituel santal entre l’oral et l’écrit, (2016) and co-author of An Encounter of Peripheries, Santals, Missionaries and their Changing Worlds (with H.Tambs-Lyche, 2008). She is the co-author of From Fire Rain to Rebellion Reasserting Identity through Narratives (P. Andersen, M. Carrin and S. Soren 2011). She has co-edited various books on Adivasi and related issues and is presently editing the BRILL Encyclopedia of the Religions among the Indigenous People of South Asia. She is currently working on indigenous knowledge in Middle India and on the Bhuta cult in South Kanara.


Journal of Adivasi and Indigenous Studies (JAIS)
(A bi-annual peer-reviewed online journal posted on Academia.edu)
Vol. X, No. 2, August 2020: 1–5
© 2020 JAIS, ISSN (online) 2394-5524

Key words: William and Mildred Archer, Santals, tribal art, Indian paintings Adivasi literature, Santal justice.


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