The next Anthropology Congress won’t be held in an Indian “factory school” for tribal children

Activists hail the decision not to hold the 2023 World Anthropology Congress at a controversial Indian school for tribal children as originally planned.

The announcement by the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Studies (IUAES) reversing its earlier decision to hold the 2023 World Anthropology Congress (WAC) at the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) in India been widely hailed by activists fighting for the rights of the Adivasi, the collective name given to the indigenous peoples of India.

Located in Bhubaneswar, in the east Indian state of Odisha, KISS is a residential school, as boarding schools are known in the country, attended by over 30,000 young Adivasi students. It brands itself as the “first ever tribal university in the world” while being described by the NGO Survival International, which fights for global indigenous rights, as a “factory school“: one of a number of global institutions “where (tribal children) are stripped of their indigenous identity and indoctrinated to conform to the dominant society”.



KISS wins WAC bid

In 2018, KISS – which labels itself as the world’s largest “anthropology laboratory” – won the bid over Croatia by a substantial margin to host the next edition of the prestigious World Anthropology Congress in collaboration with Utkal University and Sambalpur University in Odisha, and the Indian Anthropological Association. Its role was to provide infrastructure, logistics and other necessary resources, while the partner institutions would be responsible for academic and anthropological aspects.

More than 10,000 delegates from over 150 countries were expected to participate in the event scheduled to be held from 15 to 19 January 2023. However, in August this year, IUAES bowed to national and international pressure from academics, activists and civil society and withdrew its earlier decision to allow KISS to host the event. While the international organisation remains committed to the congress being held in India, the new venue has yet to be announced.

What is the World Anthropology Congress?

WAC is the world’s largest gathering of Anthropology and Ethnology academics and researchers. It is also the oldest meeting of scholars engaged in the scientific study of humankind and India has been selected to host the prestigious event, which is held every five years in different parts of the world, after a long gap of 45 years.

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