The Centre for the Study of Social Systems (CSSS) was established in 1971 with an objective of conducting teaching and research on problems related to the processes of social change in the context of development and modernization. From its inception and in keeping with the mandate of the JNU Act, the core thematic concerns of the Centre included questions of national development and problems of the marginalized social groups such as the scheduled castes, the scheduled tribes and the others. This thrust has been a persistent feature of the CSSS ever since and it is not surprising that our teaching and research show engagement with pressing questions of development, marginalization, social justice and social movements to name a few.
Our teaching and research programs have been conceptualized with an aim to develop systematic and comparative approaches to the analysis of social phenomena. Drawing upon the extant social anthropological and sociological perspectives and combining them with interdisciplinary orientations facilitate such approaches.
Broadly, the prospects for sociology in India were seen as resting on a continued tradition of research based on a variety of methods and intellectual orientations. This plurality of theoretical and methodological approaches remains a persisting and defining feature of the CSSS. This enabled us to respond more quickly to critical social developments, as well as, new intellectual currents. Importantly, the institutional flexibility of JNU and also the intellectual openness of the CSSS made it possible for new areas such as gender studies, diaspora studies, tribal studies and Dalit studies to be incorporated more readily.
One of the core concerns while setting up the Centre was to establish it as a pioneering institution, which was able to undertake sociological analyses not being conducted elsewhere. The frontiers of research were seen to be the study of the developmental processes/modernization and social change, sociology of social movements, study of professions, sociology of politics and economic life. Apart from teaching courses in sociological theory and applied areas, the Centre emphasized on training students in social science methodology and the techniques of social research, both qualitative and quantitative. Thus, an introduction to philosophy of social science was viewed as critical.
The applied courses taught at the MA level are designed to be India centric, while those at the MPhil level have a comparative focus, looking toward other societies and generalizing principles. Need for undertaking empirical research, using both quantitative and qualitative methods, was underlined by the founders and continues to be a tradition with the PhD scholars and the faculty of the Centre today. While teaching remains a primary obligation, individual scholars pursue long-term research interests, which are area specific and problem oriented.
We have from our early days actively tried to represent the diversities of Indian society in the profile of our faculty. This diversity continues to be a landmark of our students and faculty even today. Our commitment to the principles of diversity and inter-disciplinarity is reflected in the manner our teaching and research programs are designed and implemented. Inter-disciplinarity, especially, is expanded further with increased optional courses such as those on culture studies, psychoanalyses, Indian social thought and gender-studies.
The CSSS is one of the largest departments of sociology in India. We also have a remarkable distinction of being recognized as a Centre for Advanced Studies in the discipline of sociology by the University Grants Commission. The Government of India funded Ambedkar Foundation has also housed a chair in the name of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar at the Centre to study marginalized groups and minorities. We also have several collaborative research and teaching programs with universities from different parts of the world. The most active of these has been the Global Studies Program with the Institute for Sociology, Albert Ludwigs University, Freiburg University, Germany and Kwazulu Natal University, Durban, South Africa.