World Humanities Report Brainstorming Session held at Krea University
Chennai, 28 September 2019: A brainstorming session to identify priority areas for India /South Asia chapter of the World Humanities Report (WHR) was held on September 28, 2019 at Krea University in Chennai.
Organized on behalf of the International Council of Philosophy and the Human Sciences (CIPSH) in collaboration with UNESCO, this event was supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Consortium of Humanities Centres and Institutes (CHCI), which is undertaking the WHR. Eight core research groups, organized regionally, are responsible for contributing chapters to the report. Professor Bishnu Mohapatra, Dean of School of Interwoven Arts and Sciences (SIAS) at Krea University has been invited to be the research anchor for India/ South Asia.
The session was attended by 27 participants drawn from academia and publishing. Sunder Ramaswamy, Vice Chancellor of Krea University, Akhila Ramnarayan, John Mathew, Greeshma Mohan, Kalpita Bhar Paul and Prithvi Datta Chandra were the participants from Krea University.
The day began with an introduction to WHR – promise and possibilities – by Bishnu Mohapatra. First on the agenda was the session on ‘Possible ways of knowing: Humanities knowledge in our part of the world’, where A. Raghuramaraju from IIT Tirupati explored how humanities need to be thought of in this part of the world. Padma Shri Urvashi Butalia, Indian feminist and publisher, currently the director and CEO of Zubaan Books spoke of how women’s studies opened up new analytical categories within humanities and social sciences, like gender and patriarchy. She also dwelt on how feminist and Dalit publishing houses have changed the definition of what is fit for publishing. Badri Narayan, Director, GB Pant Social Science Institute, focused on how storytelling became an important tool in the idea of history and how a lot of humanities was happening outside the space of academics.
The participants formed four groups to discuss the following questions:
A post lunch discussion followed, with Chandan Gowda and Gayatri Menon, School of Development, Azim Premji University and Shankar Ramaswamy, Sociocultural anthropologist, OP Jindal University airing their views.
During the session on ‘WHR South Asia chapter as an opportunity for continuing conversations’, Prithvi Datta Chandra reiterated that the WHR should cater to the critique of knowledge and dissemination at the level of forms rather than merely content.
Apoorvanand from the University of Delhi raised a few pertinent questions such as recognizing new and emerging categories like Muslim literature, for instance. On a similar tangent, he asked the audience to think of the role of social movements in the very conception of humanity and humanities.
Kanchana Mahadevan from the University of Mumbai anchored her talk around two themes: Philosophy in relation to social sciences and Philosophy in relation to social movements. The brainstorming session came to an end with Bishnu Mohapatra deliberating on the points discussed. He also ensured that one major concern and focus for the WHR will be to bring out Indian literary imaginations and languages. He observed that humanities at the end of the day, is definitely located in politics and power. And going beyond lament, everyday humanities and humanities outside its disciplinary and academic boundaries will be other focal points of this report. He concluded the session by expressing thanks to all participants for their support, and spoke of giving opportunities to young researchers in this report and the larger work being done around it.
The WHR, an outcome of the 2017 World Humanities Conference in Liège, is designed to increase our understanding of and reflections on the contributions of the humanities to knowledge and society across the globe. The report will show where and how the humanities are practiced and make recommendations for the cultivation of humanities in the 21st Century, with a medium-term concentration on the next five-to-ten years. WHR is a reflection on the work of the humanities in defining and understanding our contemporary condition in its multiple and complex forms. It plans to draw attention to and engage with multiple archives and texts that mark areas of urgency and attention – in India / South Asia. The focus of the report will be on the ‘contemporary’, on the play and mobilization of humanities practices inside as well outside academia during the last three decades or so.