#TBAB (The Banal And Boring, August 31, 2019):

Are only boring people bored? How standard are your windows? How did the trivial, marginal, & everyday come to the foreground in literature, architecture, language, & ‘living’? Does space emerge ‘from’ living? Has your built environment been handed down to you? Must tragedy only be about high-born individuals? Are you ‘free’ to be bored? Has modernity produced a certain kind of boredom? How have we come to expect agency over the world? Can ‘having tea’ be the point of a novel? Can one extract the banal speech of-the-day from, say, the Rig Vedas? Is art always a dialectic between the alien and the familiar? Is boring, both, necessary & inevitable? Is ennui a privilege masquerading as an affliction? Do languages have a tight fit with their environment? Can grammar be felt as inadequate? What can you not do in Bhojpuri? How can buildings stay alive? Do we project boredom onto the world? Do you assign a value of ’nothing’ to boring gestational time outside of your control? How high would the bar of boredom go in the future? Will novels die? Will all, but one, languages die? Will we return to pre-Enlightenment performative forms? &, what would remain boring? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from architecture (Dr. Himanshu Burte, TISS, Mumbai), literary studies (Prof. Saikat Majumdar, Ashoka University, Delhi (NCR)), & linguistics (Dr. Peggy Mohan, Vasant Valley School, New Delhi).

Listen in…

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

Dr. Himanshu Burte (architecture), an architect and an urbanist, is Assistant Professor at School of Habitat Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. His current research interests include urban transformation, critical practice, urban infrastructure, housing policy, theatre architecture, and sustainable urbanism. He completed his Ph.D. in Urban Planning  from the CEPT University, Ahmedabad (2018), and his B. Arch. from Sir. J. J. School of Architecture, Mumbai (1985-1990). He has practiced architecture in Mumbai and Goa for over 15 years, and has also published across the professional, popular and academic press for almost 30 years. His latest book (co-edited with Amita Bhide), titled, ‘Urban Parallax: Policy and the City in Contemporary India’ (Yoda Press, New Delhi, 2018) gathers diverse disciplinary perspectives to deconstruct urban policy in India. His earlier book, titled, ‘Space for Engagement: The Indian Artplace and a Habitational Approach to Architecture’ (Seagull Books, Kolkata, 2008) proposed an alternative conceptual framework for architecture centred on the act of dwelling. Active for long in building critical discourse around architecture and urbanism in India via his projects and publications, Dr. Burte is a co-founder of Gubbi Alliance for Sustainable Habitat, a network of architects practicing sustainably in India. A former Fulbright Fellow (University of California, Berkeley, 2008-09), he is also a member of the Editorial Advisory Panel of Marg Publications, Mumbai, has guest edited for Architecture+Design.

Prof. Saikat Majumdar (literary studies) is Professor of English & Creative Writing at Ashoka University, Delhi (NCR). His research interests are world literature (in English), modernism, critical theory, colonial and postcolonial studies. He completed his undergraduate studies in India, and then completed his Ph.D. from Rutgers University, USA (2005). He is also a novelist and a critic. Prof. Majumdar has published in multiple journals and collections including PMLA, NLH: New Literary History, Cambridge History of the Indian Novel in English, Modern Fiction Studies, and Literary Activism: A Collection of Perspectives (edited by Amit Chaudhuri). His book ‘Prose of the World’ (Columbia University Press & Orient Blackswan, 2013) explores banality as a narrative aesthetic. His other book, ‘College: Pathways of Possibility’ (Bloomsbury, 2018), reflects on post secondary education in post-millennial India. He has also co-edited (with Dr. Aarthi Vadde), a collection of essays by leading critics in the US, India, and the UK, ‘The Critic as Amateur’, which would be published soon by Bloomsbury. He is also the author of three novels, titled: ‘The Scent of God’ (Simon & Schuster, 2019), ‘Silverfish’ (HarperCollins, 2007), and ‘The Firebird’ (Hachette/Permanent Press, 2015 & 2017), which have all been well received by readers and critics. He has also received grants/fellowships from, among others, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Studies at JNU, The University of Chicago, and the Humanities Center at Stanford University. In 2017, Prof. Majumdar was named a Fellow at the Suzy Newhouse Center for Humanities at Wellesley College.

Dr. Peggy Mohan (linguistics) currently teaches music at Vasant Valley School, New Delhi. She completed her undergraduate degree at The University of the West Indies (Trinidad), and her Ph.D. in Linguistics (1978) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (USA). Her Ph.D. thesis was titled, ‘Trinidad Bhojpuri: A Morphological Study’, the ethnic language spoken by the ‘east’ Indian community in Trinidad. She went on to study Trinidad-Bhojpuri as a language death situation keeping her interest in Caribbean creole languages, and also then received grants from NSF (Washington) and ICSSR (New Delhi). Her research interests over the years have been studying the interrelationships between language migration, globalization, modernity, social change, and language death. Dr. Mohan relocated to Delhi in 1979, and taught linguistics at JNU and Jamia Millia Islamia, among other centres. She has published in journals/venues such as EPW, & IIC Quarterly. Subsequently, she also branched out into the wider area of education & schooling and, among other efforts, developed an educational television series for preschool children, learned cartoon animation, and opera singing. She has also served as an expert witness (using her linguistics training) for the defense in trials of young men facing terrorism charges. Dr. Mohan has also written three novels titled: ‘Walk in C Minor (2015)’, ‘Jahajin’ (2007, which explored the migration of Indian women to the Caribbean under indenture), & ‘The Little Suspect’ (2002), all published by Harper Collins (India). She is currently completing a non fiction work on migration and its impact on language in India.

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

#TBAB mentions: Aristotle, Homer, Pānini, Miguel de Cervantes, William Shakespeare, Samuel Richardson, Walter Scott, Jane Austen, Maria Edgeworth, Karl Marx, Anton Chekhov, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Henri Lefebvre, Stanley Cavell, Frank Gehry, & Franco Moretti, among others.