Introduction, aims and plans

Hi everyone! I am sorry for introducing myself to the CASI family so late, but I am so glad to have this opportunity to be a part of CASI and to be able to read and observe the interesting endeavors everyone has undertaken.

I’m Tanvi Mittal, a rising senior at University of Pennsylvania; I am majoring in Cultural Anthropology and minoring in Consumer Psychology. I am also sub-matriculating into the master’s program of anthropology. I was born and raised in India – first 12 years in Jaipur and the rest in Pune. Having lived in India my whole life and acquiring the right tools for ethnography through a Penn education, I soon realized the vast research potential of India. Soon after, I decided to pursue an ethnographic study of the Karen people in the Andaman Islands (in Bay of Bengal – West of Indian peninsula).

The Karens were brought to the Andaman Islands by the British in 1925 as forest labors from Burma (Myanmar). Since they were not an indigenous tribe of the islands, there was not much research done on their cultural history. The rapid transformation that this community has gone through in the last 89 years is unimaginable and my aim is to trace this cultural transformation and write about their unique history. To do this, I want to interact with the oldest generation living in the villages and interview them in the hopes of collecting information of their cultural transformation.

It has become very common to think in teleological terms in the academic world today, especially within the study of cultures. Most cultures are studied through a comparative method and every culture is expected to go through the same trajectory of ‘development’. My aim is to highlight the shortcomings of this method of cultural study and show that although a necessary stepping-stone, a comparative study shouldn’t be the only way to understand a culture.

I hope I can successfully introduce myself into the community and collect personal anecdotes from the older generation which will soon be lost forever.


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About Tanvi Mittal

Class of 2015, majoring in Cultural Anthropology and sub-matricualting into the master's program in the same, minoring in Consumer Psychology, completed first archaeological field school in Belize in May2014 and first independent ethnographic field work in June-July2014