EHRENFELS, Umar Rolf, Baron von (born as Rolf Werner Leopold von E.). Prague 28.4.1901 — Neckargemünd 7.2.1980. Austrian (Czech) Anthropologist in India and Germany, converted Muslim (originally Catholic). Son of Christian von E,. Professor of Philosophy, and Emma André. In the twenties lived in Berlin trying to make a career as author and journalist. In 1926 adopted Islam (Ahmadiyya). From 1832 studied social anthropology at Vienna, Ph.D. 1937 there. First visit to India in 1932-33 and to avoid the Nazi occupation he emigrated in 1938 to Greece and soon to India. Although anti-fascist refugee, he was interned, until 1946. Then Head of the Department of Anthropology at Madras University from 1949, Professor and from 1959 Senator there. Conducted anthropological field-work. In 1961 came as Guest-Professor to University of Heidelberg, from 1962 co-worker at South Asia Institute there. Also field-work in East Africa. Married Ellen Feld, then 1925 Elfriede von Bodmershof, separated because of the Nazi occupation (formal divorce only 1948), later married Mireille Abeille, one daughter. Always kept his Austrian citizenship.
He was particularly interested in matrilinear social systems in South India, Assam and East Africa, in the position of women in ancient and contemporary Muslim social systems, in Bhakta Mārga and Sufism.
Publications: Diss. Mutterrecht in Vorderindien. MS. Vienna 1937, publ. Mother-right in India. 11+229 p. Hyderabad 1941; “Traces of Matriarchal civilization among the Kolli Malaiyalīs”, JASB 3:9 Letters, 1943, 29-82.
– ‘Ilm-ul-aqwām. 1-2. Delhi 1942 (anthropological textbook in Urdū).
– Kadar of Cochin. 319 p. Univ. of Madras Anthropological Series 1. Madras 1952.
– The Light Continent. 192 p. Bombay 1960, German transl. Der lichte Kontinent. Darmstadt 1962; Telugu transl. Kaanti Seema. Madras 1963.
– Innere Entwicklungshilfe. Ethnologische Studien in Südindien. 90 p. 12 pl. Schriftenr. des Südasien-Inst. der Univ. Heidelberg 8. Wb. 1969.
– A number of articles, also wrote on East Africa.
Sources: German Scholars on India. 1.; *K. Jettmar, Mitt. Anthr. Ges. Wien 1980, 199-201; long article in Wikipedia.
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