Lecture with Ms. Edith

On the 26th of February 2015, the Political Science Association organized a lecture by Ms. Edith working at the American Embassy on the topic “Black History”. Ms. Emily White and Ms. Madhuri who are also a part of American Embassy joined us for this lecture. Ms. Edith’s talk revolved around the book “Voices from slavery: 100 Authentic Slave Narratives”. February is celebrated as the black history month in USA. She spoke about the trials and tribulations that a slave went through in America, how they escaped their masters and the process of emancipation of slaves. She also talked about how the Nazis took the idea of concentration camps and the various ways of systematically killing the Jews from the practice of slavery in America. She mentioned that while these accounts give us a glimpse into the lives of slaves, we also have to remember the fact that it is impossible to construct history only on the basis of these narratives. She concluded her discussion by pointing out that history cannot be reconstructed from these selective and fragmented accounts but nonetheless these narratives remain an important source for understanding the everyday experience of slavery and its aftermath.

Lecture by Professor Sudha Pai

The political association on the 24th of February 2015 organized a lecture by Professor Sudha Pai on “Dalit Assertion and the BSP: Possibilities and Limits” Sudha Pai is Professor at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She joined the Centre for Political Studies in 1980 as Assistant Professor.

Her graduation and post-graduation was from the University of Delhi and her M/Phil and Ph.D. from the Centre for Political Studies. Her research interests include Dalit Politics, State Politics in India, Agrarian Politics, Globalization and Legislative Governance. She was Senior Fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Teen Murti, New Delhi (2006-09). She is also well known for her articles in national newspapers.

Professor Pai spoke about the Ambedkarite movement and its limitations, the different nature of Dalit movements across India and the three stages of the rise of BSP politics. She highlighted the various contradictions that emerged in the Dalit movement and spoke of the politics of exclusion versus the politics of inclusion. She highlighted the challenges posed by the system when a political movement enters electoral politics. Prof. Pai stated that the continuing problem of violence against Dalits is not just a reflection of the shortcomings of Dalit parties like the BSP but a reflection on the failures of Indian democracy.

Talk with Professor Gopal Guru

The Department of Political Science on the 17th of February organized a talk on the topic “Dialogue between Gandhi, Marx and Ambedkar” by Prof. Gopal Guru and Prof M. N. Thakur. Gopal Guru (Professor, Centre for Political Studies, JNU). Gopal Guru is one of the most important critical thinkers of our times. Manindra Nath Thakur (Associate Professor, Centre for Political Studies, JNU). M.N. Thakur engages with contemporary problems from creative theory perspective. His theoretical moorings are a confluence of Marxism and critical Indian philosophical traditions.

The interactive session sought to draw parallels between the concepts of Karl Marx, Mahatma Gandhi and Bhimrao Ambedkar. The speakers began by establishing a relationship between the ideas that Gandhi, Ambedkar and Marx had propagated at different times. Mr. M. N. Thakur pointed out; all the three should be read together as “philosophers of liberation” and should not be read separately.

The session turned out to be a comparison of what all the three philosophers had said about concepts like social justice, regimes of state and the society at large. It also established the importance of recognizing the differences and the similarities between these philosophers in terms of their varied understanding, and also to appreciate the reasons for the same.

-Neha Dewan

Talk with Mr. Siddartha Varadarajan

On the 13th of February 2015, the Political Science Department organized a talk by Mr. Siddhartha Varadarajan. Mr. Varadarajan is an Indian American journalist, editor, and academic. He is the former editor of The Hindu, one of India’s leading English language newspapers. He has reported on the NATO war against Yugoslavia, the destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq and the crisis in Kashmir. Mr. Varadarajan spoke about the historic development of the India-USA relations, drawing our attention to some of the major moments in the relationship. He spoke of the India-China-USA triangle and brought to our notice the fact that India is the weakest link in the triangle. Mr. Varadarajan also looked at the relationship between India-USA with regards to nuclear deals, militarization, fight against terrorism, trade and migration.

-Neha Dewan

Talk with Professor S.S. Jodhka

On the 12th of February 2015, the Political Science Association organized a talk by Professor S.S. Jodhka on the topic ‘Caste in contemporary India’. Professor Jodhka teaches Sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, he is also an affiliate senior fellow at the Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences. He focuses on the changing nature of caste in Neo-Liberal India and some of his publications include ‘Interrogating India’s Modernity’, ‘Village Societies’, ‘Community and identities’ etc.

Professor Jodhka focused on the ideas of development and civilization (as propagated by the government) being linear and drawn from the experiences of the western world and thus many see caste as Apolitical and associated with traditional societies. Jodhka urged us to come out of such a teleological predicament and acknowledge the power politics and violence associated with caste based identities. He stressed on the fact that in modern India, caste has adapted itself to the democratic processes. Caste-democracy enters each other resulting in a change in the nature of both. Mr. Jodhka divided caste based politics into the following groups:

1960-1970: caste identities rising as a regional formation, not a pan India one. Material reality of caste relations were expressed very clearly and it was recognized that caste formation wasn’t exclusively a Hindu phenomenon.

1980s: Dalit assertions competed with Communist risings. New spaces created for Dalits for example the ability to purchase grain storage units liberated some Dalit communities from storage facility providers from the upper caste communities.

1990s: rise of the new Dalit middle class. Interaction between market-caste is examined.

-Neha Dewan

Talk with Mr. Gilles Verniers

On the 30th of January 2015, the Political Science Association organized a talk by Mr. Gilles Verniers on the recent Paris Attacks. Mr. Verniers is an assistant professor of political science at Ashoka University. He has been a visiting scholar at the Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley and a part of several research projects including a project on democracy and visibility funded by the alliance programme at Columbia University. Mr. Gilles focused on the culture of offence that is prevalent in France and juxtaposed it to ideas of what is offensive in England and USA. He pointed out the special role that cartoon plays in satire and the specific kinds of criticisms that cartoonists attract to themselves. In order to explain the phenomenon of French Citizens joining the ISIS, Mr. Gilles referred to Mr. Devji’s ‘terrorists in search of humanity’.

According to those who prescribe to the school of thought that Devji prescribes to, the young recruits to terrorist groups often join the groups in order to feel purposeful. These people often feel a deep sense of injustice and often feel alienated from their own communities, making terrorist organizations an attractive alternative. The talk ended with a Q&A session where students asked questions associated with multiculturalism, secularism, religious tolerance and black humour.

-Neha Dewan

Talk with Mr. Vinay Lal

The ASSK centre for peace in collaboration with the Political Science Association held a talk by Mr. Vinay Lal and moderated by Mr. Siddiq Wahid on 6th January 2015.

Mr. Lal is a professor of History and Asian American Studies at UCLA. He writes extensively on the history and culture of colonial and modern India, the life and thoughts of M.K Gandhi, Hinduism and the politics of Knowledge systems.

Mr. Lal spoke of the politics of inter religious marriages focusing on exogamy, endogamy and hyper gamy. He pointed out the gendered aspect of all these practices Mr. Lal focused on Love Jihad and religious extremism in contemporary times, as expressed through cultural symbols. He explained concepts of secularism as seen by Gandhians and Ambedkarites and used several contemporary examples like that of Saif Ali Khan’s statement on his inter-religious marriage with Kareena Kapoor.

-Neha Dewan

 

Talk with Mr. Gautam Navalakha

On the 3rd of February 2015, the Department of Political Science held a talk by Gautam Navalakha on the topic ‘Indian state-Development and Democratic dissent’. Mr. Navalakha is a civil liberties, democratic and human rights activist; and a journalist. He is engaged with PUDR and works as an editorial consultant of the Economic and Political Weekly.

Mr. Navalakha spoke about the two conceptions of development, one from the above (propagated by the government) and the other from below. He mentioned how the two are contradictory to each other. He explained this by citing several examples such as the POSCO project and the agitation against it. He spoke of how even the Ministry of Environment and Forest actively suppress the works of environmentalists in order to allow environmentally degrading development projects to take place. Mr. Navalakha brought to our notice that the concept of ‘Competitive Federalism’ often leads poorer states to make compromises by weakening Labour laws, diluting land acquisition laws and environmental standards. Mr. Navalakha ended his talk by asking us a very pertinent question-‘what is the Indian State and who does the state really represent?’

– Neha Dewan