#TAOC (The Afterlife Of Colonies, December 28, 2019):
Do you aspire to write good English? What was Ranjit Singh’s official language? Where do your narratives come from? Is it possible to think rationally while living in a village and practicing caste? Was India (only) a land of static isolated villages? What does colonialism do to social and political formations? Are tribes expected to evolve into castes, & then into class? What has been the epistemic relationship between caste and class? Is caste truly a religious notion? Is colonialism the central fact of ‘your’ history? Did the Church and the Crown think similarly about the colonies? How do Anglicists follow Orientalists? Is the West Europe? How do we forget? Who founded the Mexican Communist Party? What do the middle class think is good? Is it possible to become modern differently? Could Christian values be taught via English literature? Did England have dissenting mini colonies even within her? Did the several nationalist de-colonising movements share common imaginations? Who drew the lines between nations? Would the World remain hierarchical and territorial? Or, would there be newer ways of coming together and making sense…? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from sociology (Prof. Surinder Singh Jodhka, JNU, New Delhi), history (Prof. Dilip Menon, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg), & literary studies (Prof. Gauri Viswanathan, Columbia University, New York).
SynTalk is pleased and privileged to have hosted the following SynTalkrs (in alphabetical order) on its #TAOC show.
Prof. Surinder Singh Jodhka (sociology) is Professor, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. His research interests are social inequality, caste in contemporary times, rural society and agrarian change, development studies, political sociology of social and cultural identities in contemporary India. He completed his M.A. (1985), M.Phil. (1987), & Ph.D. (1991) in Sociology from JNU. Prof. Jodhka was also the Director, Indian Institute of Dalit Studies (2008-2010), taught at Department of Sociology, Panjab University, Chandigarh (1998-2001), and at University of Hyderabad (1991-1998). He has published 17 books, including, ‘India’s Villages in the 21st Century: Revisits and Revisions’ (OUP, 2019), ‘Inequality in Capitalist Societies’ (Routledge, 2017), & ‘Contested Transformations: Changing Economies and Identities in Contemporary India’ (Tulika Press, 2006). His research has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as: Economic and Political Weekly, Contemporary South Asia, & South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal. He has also contributed opinion pieces in newspapers and popular magazines, such as: The Indian Express, Deccan Herald, The Tribune, India Today, & Mint, The Wall Street Journal. Prof. Jodhka has received numerous awards & fellowships, including, ICSSR-Amartya Sen Award for Distinguished Social Scientist (Sociology, 2012). He has also delivered lectures at numerous universities across the world, including, University of Oxford, University of Bergen, University of Lund, & National University of Singapore.
Prof. Dilip Menon (history) is Mellon Chair of Indian Studies and the Director of the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He was educated at the Universities of Delhi, Oxford and Cambridge and got his Ph.D. degree from Cambridge. He has been working with the idea of the historical imagination as against the protocols of a historical discipline. His research interests have been issues of caste, socialism and equality in modern India. He is currently engaged in writing a book on historical thought in South India between 1850-1960. In this he takes up histories of the region written by a diverse set of figures ranging from religious mystics to lawyers and literary critics none of whom were professional historians. The different histories of Kerala locate it within times going back to the millennium long engagement with the Indian ocean as much as connections with mythical times. Prof. Menon thinks with the idea of the paracolonial (times that exceed as also exist alongside the colonial). He also engages with the ‘abbreviated time of modernity’ and asks how far back we must go to write a history of the present. He has authored/ edited four books, including, ‘The cultural history of Modern India’ (Social Sciences Press, Delhi, & Berghahn, London 2006), & ‘Saraswativijayam’ (Book Review Literary Trust, New Delhi, 2002), which is a translation of Potheri Kunhambu’s novel of 1893 from Malayalam. Prof. Menon has also published articles in numerous journals/books including, ‘The future of Secularism’ (OUP, 2006), & ‘No Alphabet in Sight: new Dalit writing from South India’ (Penguin, 2011).
Prof. Gauri Viswanathan (literary studies) is Class of 1933 Professor in the Humanities and Director of the South Asia Institute at Columbia University, New York, USA. Her research interests are education, religion, culture, nineteenth-century British and colonial cultural studies, and the history of modern disciplines. She is the author of ‘Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India’ (Columbia, 1989 & 2014; Oxford, 1998) and ‘Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, and Belief’ (Princeton, 1998), which won multiple awards, including, the Harry Levin Prize (American Comparative Literature Association), and the Ananda K. Coomaraswamy Prize (Association for Asian Studies). She also edited ‘Power, Politics, and Culture: Interviews with Edward W. Said’ (Vintage, 2001). Prof. Viswanathan’s current work is on genealogies of secularism and theories of enchantment. Among her recent publications are ‘In Search of Madame Blavatsky: Reading the Exoteric, Retrieving the Esoteric’, published in Representations, and ‘Conversion and the Idea of the Secret’, published in Nineteenth-Century Literature. She is co-editor of the prize-winning book series ‘South Asia Across the Disciplines’, published jointly by the university presses of Columbia, Chicago, and California under a Mellon grant. She has received Guggenheim, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Mellon fellowships. In addition, she was a fellow at various research institutes and delivered keynote lectures at numerous international venues, among them the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Prof. Viswanathan was awarded the Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching in 2017-2018.
Note: Any & all errors in the brief profiles above are SynTalk’s own.
#TAOC mentions: Guru Nanak, G.W.F Hegel, Robert Louis Stevenson, H. Rider Haggard, Arthur Conan Doyle, Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, B. R. Ambedkar, Amos Tutuola, Fernand Braudel, Anthony Burgess, Louis Dumont, Edward Said, Thomas Macaulay, Christopher Bayly, Nissim Ezekiel, V.S. Naipaul, Claude Meillassoux, Paul Fussell, Bernard Cohn, Walter Mignolo, Salman Rushdie, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Lata Mani, Lisa Lowe, & Mahasweta Devi, among others.