The contemporary intellectual moment is marked by a deep interrogation of accepted modes of cognition and political practices. The interrogation is not a new phenomenon in the social sciences, the field has been characterised by shifts in knowledge systems as a response to both the internal contradictions within the debates and as reactions to social happenings. Indeed, theory is being constantly moulded by the changing social environment in its bid to appropriate the world in a particular manner. What is new and perhaps disquieting is the loss of all certainties, social theory and practice has been cast adrift in a rapidly changing world to an extent where the relevance of theory has begun to be questioned. We seem to be moving towards a dangerous intellectual conjuncture of anti-theory or at least the withdrawal of theory from meaningful political intervention. For social theorists of and in the post-colonial world, the dilemma is compounded by the recognition of the fact that perhaps the failure to comprehend our world in all its complexities and historical specificities is traceable to the kind of theoretical tools that we have inherited as a part of our colonial legacy. Skepticism about 'received' social science techniques and the parallel questioning of notions of a universal social science has resulted in the charting out of an indigenous social science, but a disquiet remains as to whether in the privileging of this kind of science we are not lapsing into some kind of nativism or celebration of indigenous cultures.
To share some of these thoughts among scholars who have been involved in these questions, the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library together with the Departmental Special Assistance programme in the Politics of Developing Societies, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi, organised a national four-day seminar— 'Theoretical and Methodological Problems in the Study of State and Society in the "Third World"1—in the last week of November 1991, in Teenmurti House. Most of the papers presented concentrated on the kinds of problems each scholar faced in the field of method and theory. Some of the papers have been included in this volume as representative of the general rethinking of social science agendas. Whereas none of the papers offered solutions, and it was properly recognised that solutions seldom emerge from seminars, there was a
Social Scientist, Vol. 19, Nos. 9-10, October-November, 1991