#TLATOS  (The Lives And Times Of Sentiments, January 10, 2015):

SynTalk thinks about collective sentiments and its antipode, Reason, and constantly wonders if this historically naturalised dichotomy is perhaps at the root of the phenomenon of ‘hurt sentiments’. We simultaneously wonder if the realm of sentiments and affect have somehow been pathologised. The concepts are derived off / from Abhinavagupta, Plato, Descartes, Hume, Dayanand Saraswati, Marx, Gandhi, Ambedkar, Samuel Huntington, Shuddhabrata Sengupta, & Woody Allen (off Emily Dickinson), among others. Is it possible to create spaces for dialogue and ‘ruthless criticism of everything existing’? Is sentiment ever hurt spontaneously, or is it always constructed, and how do sentiments get their collective force? Where do sentiments and cultural common sense begin to develop, and what are the linkages with childhood, neighborhood, family, religion, media, vigilantism, capitalism, & the State. Which is a better path: tolerance, or dialogical curiosity? Why is reason never hurt? How there are many ways of describing everything. The special status of religious sentiments, given the claim of sanctity from a transcendental source (beyond rationality & argumentation), and their ability to articulate aggressive sentiments. Is every religion also a social and political power structure? Why (paradoxically) the UK Government could not prosecute Salman Rushdie (for Satanic Verses) for blasphemy. How the sanctity of the human life is above any hurt sentiment. Is offence for offence fine, and is offence a part of the right of expression? Is the realm of creative expression characteristically different? How the pogroms, riots, & ‘women being pulled by their hair out of a pub’ become mediatized events, & the sometimes-cynical-sometimes-critical-sometimes-partial role played by the media. Can / should the State act as a buffer zone between opposing sentiments? The need to listen fearlessly. Should diversity be seen as a universal human value? Is there a need for renegotiated and renewed sense of universal human values. The need for laws which can be critiqued and rejected or accepted in the public sphere. Is the future bleak for the spirit of negation and questioning? Is a different future dependent on a different political order? What is the future of nationalistic sentiments. The need for “Hope” (the thing with feathers), which needs no reason. The SynTalkrs are: Prof. Purushottam Agrawal (cultural history, literature, ex-JNU, Delhi), Prof. Anjali Monteiro (media studies, documentary film making, TISS, Mumbai), & Geeta Seshu (journalism, The Hoot, Mumbai).

SynTalk is pleased and privileged to have hosted the following SynTalkrs (in alphabetical order) on its #TREM show.

Prof. Purushottam Agrawal (cultural history, literature, interdisciplinary) is a bi-lingual scholar, a cultural historian, and a political commentator. His intellectual interests include Bhakti poetry (especially that of Kabir), indigenous modernity, non violence and cultural & literary criticism. He has been published by academic journals and popular magazines on wide-ranging issues of culture, literature and current affairs over the last 25 years. Prof. Agrawal is currently the Malviya Chair Professor designate of Banaras Hindu University (BHU), and was a member of Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) of India (2007 to 2013). He has also served as the Chairperson, Centre of Indian Languages, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. Previously, he has been a Visiting Professor at Faculty of Oriental Studies, Cambridge University (UK), and at El Colegio de Mexico, Mexico City (his writings feature in a course titled ‘Public Intellectuals of India’ offered by this prestigious institution). His book ‘Akath Kahani Prem Ki: Kabir Ki Kavita aur Unka Samay’- (‘Untellable tale of Love: Kabir’s Poetry and his Times’) has been a popular and a critical success in Hindi literary circles and beyond. His latest work – ‘Hindi Serai: Astrakhan via Yerevan’ — traces the history of the Indian traders settled in Astrakhan (Russia) during 16th to18th centuries. He has recently turned to fiction writing via short stories, his latest story NACOHUS (National Commission Of Hurt Sentiments) constructs a Kafkaesque fantasy around the politic of hurt sentiments. Prof. Agrawal received his Ph.D. from JNU, New Delhi, in 1985.

Prof. Anjali Monteiro (media studies, documentary film making) is Professor at the School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a Masters degree in Economics and a Ph.D. in Sociology. She is involved in documentary production, media teaching and research. Jointly with Prof. K.P. Jayasankar, she has won thirty-two national and international awards at documentary film festivals. A presiding thematic of much of their work has been a problematising of notions of self and the other, of normality and deviance, of the local and the global, through the exploration of diverse narratives and rituals. These range from the Sufi oral traditions to the poetry of prisoners. Her doctoral work involved an ethnographic study of television audience reception in a working class neighbourhood in Goa, in the late 1980s. She currently writes in the broad area of media and cultural studies, with focus on documentary film, censorship, critical theory and issues of media representation. She has been a visiting professor at several universities, including University of Technology, Sydney, University of Western Sydney, Lund University, Sweden and University of California, Berkeley and has lectured at several universities in Australia, USA, UK, Asia and Europe. She has just completed a book on independent alternative documentary films in India, co-authored with Prof. K.P. Jayasankar. She is active in campaigns for freedom of expression and against censorship.

Geeta Seshu (journalism, media studies) is an independent journalist engaged in reporting and analysing media issues, in particular on freedom of expression, media ethics, media ownership and working conditions of journalists. Currently, she is the Consulting Editor of The Hoot. She also has an abiding interest in women’s issues and has been tracking media representation of women in the mainstream media for several years. Geeta worked in the Indian Express, Mumbai, as the Principal Correspondent till 1996. She was the editor of Soulkurry, an internet portal for women, and of ‘Humanscape’ (a magazine). As a senior research fellow of the AWA (Avabai Wadia Archives, Research Centre for Women’s Studies, Mumbai) in 2010, she (along with Chayanika Shah and Meena Gopal) archived the campaign of the Forum Against Sex Pre-Selection and Sex Determination. Since 2010, she has been coordinator of the Free Speech Hub, an initiative of the well-known mediawatch site, The Hoot, to track freedom of expression and its violations in India.

ŸNote: Any & all errors in the brief profiles above are SynTalk’s own.

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