Monthly Archives: November 2010

ANTI-CASTE CONFERENCE on “Caste and Sociology”

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Krantisinh Nana Patil Academy, Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj Research Centre
and Tarabai Shinde Women’s Studies Centre organise the FIFTH NATIONAL ANTI-CASTE CONFERENCE on “Caste and Sociology ” at Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University, Aurangabad 28th and 29th January 2011;
Concept note:

Caste became a subject of sociological and anthropological enquiry during colonialism. The major ideological frameworks within which caste was comprehended and analysed at this time were Orientalism and Indology both of which substantially relied on Brahminical texts. Parallel to this ‘text view’ was colonial anthropology which used evolutionary and functionalist paradigms in generating empirical insights about caste. The nationalist school welcomed and internalised the Orientalists’ empirical (textual) method of the study of caste, which considered caste only within the restricted framework of ‘culture’ and religion. The theories of caste which emanated from such studies ultimately proved beneficial to the Brahminical tradition and interests.
The anti-caste movement stimulated and significantly contributed to the sociological studies on caste,by looking at the exploitative nature of caste in its religiocultural, economic and social aspects. The neo-Marxian theoretical view critiqued and complicated the classical Marxian interpretation of caste, moving beyond the tendency to equate caste with class or to see a one-to-one relationship between the two and provided a nuanced understanding of how caste configures and re-configures itself.
Other major theoretical approaches in academic sociology engaging with caste were structuralism and structural- functionalism which have not paid attention to the experiential accounts of the exploited groups within the caste system. The postmodernist approach is the recent entrant in problematizing caste. Amidst this prevailing abundance of approaches and studies on caste it is required to emphasise and prioritise those approaches which foreground the political, social and cultural articulations of the victims of caste system. This appears to be the correct choice from a transformatory political perspective.
As brought out earlier, caste continues to prevail in India both in its traditional manifestations and in new avatars. Struggles for the upward mobility of one’s caste group have played an important role in the construction of change and continuity in caste. In fact, social cohesion has been maintained in India through struggles of this kind. Therefore it is important to study both struggles aiming at economic, political, social or cultural enhancement of the role of one’s caste on the one hand, and genuine anti-caste struggles on the other.
The colonial mode of production created conditions for the emergence of class within the matrix of caste itself. This is evident from the fact that working class and capitalist class emerged from the erstwhile toiling castes and trading castes respectively.

Though the new capitalist order has challenged the hereditary nature of caste and structures of labour in some ways, caste-based appropriation of surplus was the only basis of capitalist exploitation, at least in the villages. Since capitalist development was oriented towards appropriating the surplus drawn from agriculture and diverting it to industrialisation, the process of formation of class relations in the rural society remained slow. Consequently, the elites of the dominant peasant castes in rural India remained influential and, at the national level, the entrepreneurs, and capitalists from the upper castes continued to dominate.
On the global scale, it is finance capital rather than industrial capital that is dominant. So even if the opening up of markets widens the class-based division of labour, with the dominance of service-based industries, upward class mobility requires cultural adaptations in the pattern of sanskritisation/brahminisation. The politics of caste identity thus becomes more entrenched. Religious fundamentalism and caste-consciousness have
both become widespread in the context of contemporary globalisation. How does this affect the social structure of caste? The Indian caste-class structure is organically linked to brahminical patriarchy.
The interrelationship between caste, class and patriarchy is constantly changing; a sociological study of this interrelationship thus becomes crucial to our understanding of Indian reality. Though the family is seen as an important institution in sociology, there is no attempt to study caste and family together. It is necessary to study how caste and patriarchy are instrumental in arranging marriages, child rearing, distribution of property
/ income and the day-to-day division of labour. The family is in a state of flux under globalisation, industrialisation and urbanisation. Even in the rural areas, the family is facing many kinds of pressure. It is imperative to undertake sociological study of these tensions and shifts.
Against this backdrop, literature, art, media and the sociology of education need to be studied in the context of caste. With a view of comprehending and analysing various aspects of the sociology of caste, Krantisinh Nana Patil Academy, Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj Research Centre and Tarabai Shinde Women’s Studies Centre are jointly organising the Fifth Anti-Caste Conference in January 2011.
Issues to be addressed in the conference:
1) Sociological Theorisation of Caste
2) Caste Mobility and Caste Struggle: Sociological Understanding
3) Capitalism and Socialisation of Caste
4) Sociology of Religion and Caste
5) Caste, Class and Patriarchy: Sociological Interpretation
6) Caste and the Family System
7) Political Socialisation of Caste
8 Education, Literature, Art, Media and Caste: Sociological Perspectives
9) Case Studies of Caste and Field Studies.
Last date for submission of abstract: 15 December 2010.The abstract & Paper should be submitted to Dr. Wandana Sonalkar, Director, Tarabai Shinde Women’s Studies Centre, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathawada University, Aurangabad.
Registration Fees: Rs.200.00
Dr. Wandana Sonalkar Dr. Narayan Bhosale Dr. Umesh Bagade
Director Conference Co-ordinator Director
Tarabai Shinde Women’s Studies Centre Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj Research Centre
E-mail: wsonalkar@gmail.com E-mail: ubagade@gmail.com
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Ashish Rajadhyaksha’s Online Book

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Ashish Rajadhyaksha of CSCS, Bangalore, has begun a book titled The Last Cultural Mile, which he plans to write online as a public act. A novel idea. I hope its interactive part doesnt become pervert as sometimes happens with online writings. For the experiment to succeed we as public are also responsible. We should readily take part in the debates the book sets off.

Writing Online

Dear world. This is the first time I am trying such a thing. What I want to do is to write my book, which I have for the moment titled ‘The Last Cultural Mile’, as a public online act. I suppose it doesn’t especially matter to me how many people actually read this:  it’s more to do with writing this in public, so to say: to see what this does to my writing, as practice and as discipline. I hope to write simpler. I also hope to write more regularly, since I am making this into a public duty. There will be more to say about the public nature of this. Since I work on my texts over and over again, I will keep changing this text, and at the same time adding new chapters to the book. Let me see how this piece of unmoulded rock can be hewn into shape as the world – meaning of course the three and a half people who do care – watches.

Years ago, inspired by the new journalism that was fashionable when I was young (and myself a journalist) I tried speedwriting, typing on my Royal typewriter whatever occurred to my head, as fast as I could, ensuring – in, I imagined, the grand tradition of Tom Wolfe and the abstract expressionists behind him – that, whatever happened, I would change not a word: that this will be my consciousness speaking unmediated, so to say. This is close, and perhaps a useful update on that technology: for here I CAN change, and yet it is pure consciousness speaking. (I tried many things then: to work with the xxx marks that showcased error when I thought I would be inspired by Tagore’s doodles) then to type on teleprinter rolls so as to eliminate the tyranny of the A-4 page. The important thing about such consciousness always being to try and discover what my book is actually about  only as I write it, or even – who knows – after it’s all done….

Go here for more.

Gayatri Spivak at National Symposium on The Human Sciences in the Time of Disciplinary Decadence

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image from google images

Second National Symposium

The Human Sciences in the Time of Disciplinary Decadence

10-12 February 2011

Venue: Balvant Parekh Centre for General Semantics and Other Human Sciences, Baroda

Balvant Parekh Centre for General Semantics and Other Human Sciences, in collaboration with the Forum on Contemporary Theory, will be organizing a national symposium on the topic “The Human Sciences in the Time of Disciplinary Decadence” in Baroda during 10-12 February 2011 to coincide with Professor Gayatri  Chakravorty Spivak’s visit to the Centre for delivering the third Balvant Parekh Distinguished Lecture on February 11. Professor Spivak has agreed to participate in the symposium and make critical interventions during discussion. Her lecture “Teaching Literature Today” will “consider the importance of teaching literary reading actively in a world that de-values the humanities in every sense.” At a time when the teaching of literature and philosophy has become a low priority for our educational planners, her observations and comments on Indian educational scenario will provide an impetus for rethinking the value of humanistic learning at a time when there seems to be some decadence in disciplinary structures of our knowledge-systems. One has to appreciate in that context the relevance of the human sciences as a methodological answer to the ossification of disciplines at present. Historically speaking, the human sciences emerged during the time of the First World War from a crisis in European thought; now is perhaps the time of the second renaissance of that awakening. At a time when disciplines like the humanities and social sciences are under a serious threat from the market forces that have considered these knowledge-generating fields of study as useless luxuries for social well-being, one needs to recall the old Greek term “theoria” for reclaiming what could be called an “originary experience” of knowledge combining a penchant for theory and its application in praxis. The human sciences have to be understood as an attempt to get back to that experience. As a hybrid episteme drawing its sustenance from the positive attributes of both the sciences (natural and social) and the humanities, the human sciences seem to have provided a way

out of the “disciplinary decadence,” to use a phrase from Lewis Gordon, our institutions have fallen into. They are also an attempt to simultaneously de-transcendentalize Theory as abstraction and to distil empirical praxis to conceptual reflection. Professor Spivak’s recent works and concerns are directed toward that effort. We hope the papers presented at the symposium and the discussion held will offer staple material for a volume, which the Centre will be happy to bring out. Those who want to participate in this Symposium should mail their abstracts to prafullakar@gmail.com by December 15, 2010. Full papers should reach us by January 15, 2011.

Registration fee for participation is: Rs.1000/ (Rupees one thousand only), which may be sent by money order or bank draft favoring Balvant Parekh Centre for General Semantics and Other Human Sciences by January 15.

The fee will take care of lunch and tea during the symposium.

 

 

Vandana Shiva on the War on Earth

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image courtesy - urbanitebaltimore-com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we think of wars in our times, our minds turn to Iraq and Afghanistan. But the bigger war is the war against the planet. This war has its roots in an economy that fails to respect ecological and ethical limits – limits to inequality, limits to injustice, limits to greed and economic concentration.

A handful of corporations and of powerful countries seeks to control the earth’s resources and transform the planet into a supermarket in which everything is for sale. They want to sell our water, genes, cells, organs, knowledge, cultures and future.

The continuing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and onwards are not only about “blood for oil”. As they unfold, we will see that they are about blood for food, blood for genes and biodiversity and blood for water.

The war mentality underlying military-industrial agriculture is evident from the names of Monsanto’s herbicides – ”Round-Up”, ”Machete”, ”Lasso”. American Home Products, which has merged with Monsanto, gives its herbicides similarly aggressive names, including ”Pentagon” and ”Squadron”.This is the language of war. Sustainability is based on peace with the earth.

The war against the earth begins in the mind. Violent thoughts shape violent actions. Violent categories construct violent tools. And nowhere is this more vivid than in the metaphors and methods on which industrial, agricultural and food production is based. Factories that produced poisons and explosives to kill people during wars were transformed into factories producing agri-chemicals after the wars.

The year 1984 woke me up to the fact that something was terribly wrong with the way food was produced. With the violence in Punjab and the disaster in Bhopal, agriculture looked like war. That is when I wrote The Violence of the Green Revolution and why I started Navdanya as a movement for an agriculture free of poisons and toxics.

Pesticides, which started as war chemicals, have failed to control pests. Genetic engineering was supposed to provide an alternative to toxic chemicals. Instead, it has led to increased use of pesticides and herbicides and unleashed a war against farmers.

The high-cost feeds and high-cost chemicals are trapping farmers in debt – and the debt trap is pushing farmers to suicide. According to official data, more than 200,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide in India since 1997.

Making peace with the earth was always an ethical and ecological imperative. It has now become a survival imperative for our species.

Violence to the soil, to biodiversity, to water, to atmosphere, to farms and farmers produces a warlike food system that is unable to feed people. One billion people are hungry. Two billion suffer food-related diseases – obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cancers.

There are three levels of violence involved in non-sustainable development. The first is the violence against the earth, which is expressed as the ecological crisis. The second is the violence against people, which is expressed as poverty, destitution and displacement. The third is the violence of war and conflict, as the powerful reach for the resources that lie in other communities and countries for their limitless appetites.

When every aspect of life is commercialised, living becomes more costly, and people are poor, even if they earn more than a dollar a day. On the other hand, people can be affluent in material terms, even without the money economy, if they have access to land, their soils are fertile, their rivers flow clean, their cultures are rich and carry traditions of producing beautiful homes and clothing and delicious food, and there is social cohesion, solidarity and spirit of community.

The elevation of the domain of the market, and money as man-made capital, to the position of the highest organising principle for societies and the only measure of our well-being has led to the undermining of the processes that maintain and sustain life in nature and society.

The richer we get, the poorer we become ecologically and culturally. The growth of affluence, measured in money, is leading to a growth in poverty at the material, cultural, ecological and spiritual levels.

The real currency of life is life itself and this view raises questions: how do we look at ourselves in this world? What are humans for? And are we merely a money-making and resource-guzzling machine? Or do we have a higher purpose, a higher end?

I believe that ”earth democracy” enables us to envision and create living democracies based on the intrinsic worth of all species, all peoples, all cultures – a just and equal sharing of this earth’s vital resources, and sharing the decisions about the use of the earth’s resources.

Earth democracy protects the ecological processes that maintain life and the fundamental human rights that are the basis of the right to life, including the right to water, food, health, education, jobs and livelihoods.

We have to make a choice. Will we obey the market laws of corporate greed or Gaia’s laws for maintenance of the earth’s ecosystems and the diversity of its beings?

People’s need for food and water can be met only if nature’s capacity to provide food and water is protected. Dead soils and dead rivers cannot give food and water.

Defending the rights of Mother Earth is therefore the most important human rights and social justice struggle. It is the broadest peace movement of our times.

Courtesy Znet

Ashis Nandy on intolerant politics

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image from: ipcs.org.au

… those who pass as politicians today and our knowledge-proof babus have proved themselves incapable of understanding the subtleties of public communication. They are not literate enough to know what role free speech and free press play in an open society, not only in keeping the society open but also in serious statecraft. In the meanwhile, it has become dangerous to demand a more compassionate and humane society, for that has come to mean a serious criticism of contemporary India and those who run it. Such criticism is being redefined as anti-national and divisive. In the case of Arundhati, it is of course the BJP that is setting the pace of public debate and pleading for censorship. But I must hasten to add that the Congress looks unwilling to lose the race. It seems keen to prove that it is more nationalist than the BJP.

It is the hearts and minds of the new middle class—those who have come up in the last two decades from almost nowhere and are middle class by virtue of having money rather than middle-class values—that both parties are after. This new middle class wants to give meaning to their hollow life through a violent, nineteenth-century version of European-style ‘nationalism’. They want to prove—to others as well as to themselves—that they have a stake in the system, that they have arrived. They are afraid that the slightest erosion in the legitimacy of their particularly nasty version of nationalism will jeopardise their new-found social status and political clout. They are willing to fight to the last Indian for the glory of Mother India as long as they themselves are not conscripted to do so and they can see, safely and comfortably in their drawing rooms, Indian nationalism unfolding the way a violent Bombay film unfolds on their television screens.

Hence the bitterness and intolerance, not only towards Arundhati Roy, but also towards all other spoilsports who defy the mainstream imagination of India and its nationalism. Even Gandhians fighting for their cause non-violently are not spared. Himangshu Kumar’s ashram at Dantewada has been destroyed not by the Maoists but by the police. I would have thought that writers and artists would be exempt from censorship in an open society. As we well know, they are not. The CPI(M) and the Congress ganged up to shut up Taslima Nasreen by saying she was not an Indian. As though if you are a non-Indian in India, your rights don’t have to be governed by the Constitution of India!

There are times when a national consensus is neither possible nor desirable…

What is it about the culture of Indian politics today that it allows us to opt for a version of nationalism that is so brutal, self-certain and chauvinist? Have we been so brutalised  ourselves that we have become totally numb to the suffering around us? What is this concept of Indian unity that forces us to support police atrocities and torture? How can a democratic government, knowing fully what its police, paramilitary and army is capable of doing, resist signing the international covenant on torture? How can we, sixty years after independence, countenance encounter deaths? Could these practices have survived so long and become institutionalised if we had a large enough section of India’s much-vaunted middle class fully sensitive to the demands of democracy?

The answers to these questions are not pleasant. We know things could not have come to this pass if those who are or should be alert to these issues in the intelligentsia, media, artistic community had done their job. Here I think the changing nature of the Indian middle class has not been a help.

…the future of censorship and surveillance in India was very bright. It’s not only the government that loves it but a very large section of middle-class India too would like to silence writers, artists, playwrights, scholars and thinkers they do not like. In their attempt to become a globalised middle class, they are willing to change their dress, food habits and language but not their love for censorship. We should thank our stars that there still are people in our midst—editors, political activists, NGOs, lawyers and judges—to whom freedom of speech is neither a value peripheral to the real concerns of Indian democracy nor a bourgeois virtue but a clue to our survival as a civilised society.

Read more here

Dismantling Machines

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Prasanna is a highly accomplished theatre person; among the founders of the theatre movement ‘Samudaya’ in Karnataka. His experiments with Gandhianism at Charaka is amazing and a ray of hope. He has written a couple of books on sustainable life-style in Kannada. A recent one is called ‘Dismantling Machines’. Here is a Youtube speech (in Kannada) he gave in a seminar in Dharwad.