Talk with Professor Pushpesh Pant

DATE: 8 September 2015

Theme: “The Politics of Food”

The Department of Political Science brought a new aspect to the study of politics by inclusivity of the concept of ‘food’. As any student of the Department would say, politics is everywhere and nothing falls beyond its ambit. Keeping the same in mind, we hosted Prof. Pant to deliver a guest lecture on the “politics of food”.

According to Professor Pushpesh Pant food is at the very heart of politics as it tries arbitrarily to create a hierarchy of preferences. He started the lecture by talking about the history of ‘the melt in the mouth’ kakori kebab. He highlighted the underlying folklore that surrounds the kebab that makes it such popular a dish however the truth is the fact that kakori was actually made for old pilgrims at the Kakori Dargah who couldn’t bite into hard kebabs. According to Professor Pant, politics of food acts at three levels- production, consumption, and cultural levels. At the level of manufacturers and producers there emerges a nexus between political parties, FSSAI and MNC’s such as Nestle. There is the dominant practice of hiding or manipulating the labelling that is very central to food politics. At the level of the consumer there is often the food of the rich versus that of the poor. It is often assumed that the former is tastier or more expensive than the latter. However in the contemporary context poor man’s food (organic food) is more expensive or exotic than rich man’s food. For example, Thukpa. In the cultural context, politics of food is often the basis for the division of various taste zones. Prof. Pant believes that more than language it is food that brings together various people. He pointed out the important food zones to be Kolkata, Mumbai and Goa, Delhi, Punjab, Kerala, Chennai, Lucknow, Rajasthan and the North-East.

He finally concluded by saying that all that is food is associated with all that is political and hence, there exists the politics of food.

Talk with Dr. Neera Chandhoke

Prof. Neera Chandhoke

Date: 25 February 2016

Theme: “The rise and fall of secularism”

With its series of events, the next in line after discourse of nationalism and communalism, had to be Prof. Neera Chandhoke. In large numbers, the students gathered to hear her views on the ideas of secularism in the contemporary scenario. The discussion entailed a series of contested ideas from various paradigms of political sciences in the context of the Indian polity. There was discovery of concepts and their interplay with ground realities to the extent where students were left with a fish poise to explore their political environment and learn to question and discover concepts in every step.

Lecture by Professor Achin Vinaik

Prof. Achin Vanaik

Date: 18 February 2016

Theme: “Nationalism and Communalism”

As the country was fighting for its idea of ‘nationalism’, the Political Science Department also became a ground for a ‘fight of ideas’, a platform to discuss and deliberate concepts and thoughts. Prof. Achin Vanaik from the University of Delhi, a renowned academician and an extremely engaging speaker was just what the students wanted. In a full venue crowded with students from all Departments of the college, Prof. Vanaik traced ideas of ‘Democratic nationalism’, questions institutions and practices of undemocratic nature and provided conceptual clarity to the students on questions of ‘defining nationalism’. Policy and the Indian nation state were explored deeply. His speaking style, engagement sessions were highly admired by the students, who until after the guest lecture was over continued hearing his interesting ideas on the communalism and nationalism debate.

‘Chat with a Diplomat’, organised in Co- Operation with the US Embassy and Global Youth India

22 September 2015

Speakers:
Ms. Jessica Edwardsen
Ms. Emily White
Mr. Branden Young
Mr. Ramesh Jain

In the light of the dynamic India-US relations, The Department hosted an interactive session with Ms. Jessica Edwardsen, Press Officer, US Embassy, India, Ms. Emily Program Director, American Centre, US Embassy, India, and Mr. Branden Young, Deputy North India Coordinator, US Embassy. The event was held in association with Global Youth India, an apolitical, not-for-profit organisation being managed on a voluntary basis by a group of television journalists and young professionals who focus on foreign policy issues in India. The event brought together young students to ideate on foreign policy issues and interact with foreign policy makers from the US embassy.

Lecture with Dr. Rajan Harshe

20 August 2015

The Association hosted Dr. Rajen Harshe as our first guest lecturer. He delivered an extremely informative and engaging lecture about “Globalization and the Fluctuating Contours of International Relations”. His lecture threw light upon how globalization is a multi-layered social process and how it involves free flow of goods and services along with terrorism and knowledge as well. He explained how capitalism and globalization forms a symbiotic relationship, both aiding the growth of one another. Moving beyond the economic aspect of globalization he also went on to explain how globalization affects us culturally through hegemony and he also explained that how in a very indirect way globalization is also propagating gender inequality. Though a very serious topic, Professor Harshe made sure to keep the talk engaging by adding a dash of humor in his speech. The speech was followed by an interactive session where Dr. Harshe in a very lucid way dispelled the doubts arousing in our mind. Such an interactive and engaging session will definitely inspire and encourage our department to hold many such more events in future.

Talk With Ms. Shivani Gupta

The department held an interactive session with Ms. Shivani Gupta and her associates from the organization ‘Feminist Approach to Technology on 8th of August. The topic of discussion was ‘Technology and Feminism-in Everyday Lives of Women’ the interactive session was followed by screening of a short film called ‘Apna haq’.
FAT is an organization that seeks to empower women by enhancing women’s awareness, interest and participation in technology. They work towards this by breaking societal stereotypes and attitudes, encouraging and enabling women to feel capable and comfortable in working with technology, and collaborating with other women’s organizations to mainstream the issue of engendering technology.
The event helped us understand the various ways in which the use and production of technology is heavily gendered and what we can do to create a space for women in this heavily male dominated arena. The movie ‘Apna Haq’ was made by girls associated with FAT. With the aid of modern technology these girls brought to everyone’s notice the issues they face due to lack of clean and safe toilets. The session was followed up with a Q&A session and both faculty and students’ body had questions regarding the work the FAT does and the challenges they face.
Shivani Gupta very graciously extended an invitation to the students for joining FAT as volunteers and also agreed to help us with our very own Zamrudpur health and gender project.

Talk with Dr. Nikita Satov

The Political Science Department of Lady Shri Ram College for Women in association with Global Youth organized a talk by Dr. Nikita Setov, Deputy Dean for Academic Affairs, Department of Political Science, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow on 30th January, 2016. He spoke about how the international political arena has remained under US hegemony for decade now. What he suggested instead was a power structure with divided leadership. He was unable to elaborate on how this was to be achieved, as he conceded that no superpower can be expected to willingly share its power.
On the other hand he felt that India, Russia and China could possibly counter US hegemony by aligning their forces. What has repeatedly come in the way of such an alliance is the fact that nations in the international arena strive to protect their national interest before their international relations.

He reiterated that it is the cultural sphere where citizens of India and Russia feel a divide and that had to be worked on. He commended the Indian PM Narendra Modi’s efforts at promoting Indian Culture worldwide. He stated that while Russia and India both work to protect national interests, the difference lies in the methods adopted. While Russia was prone to using hard military power, India used its soft or rather “smart” power.

On issues of current relevance, he remarked that the threat of the ISIS needed to be taken seriously all over the world. The world’s view of global terrorism needs to expand, terrorism in West and Central Africa are issues that don’t even come up when we refer to “Global” terrorism. As for the ISIS, he remarked that it was not just a West Asian problem. Central Asian countries, India and even Russia have significant Muslim populations that would become susceptible to the spread of extremism if it is not tackled with directly. He called himself a political realist and hoped that the intelligence agencies of these countries would be able to work together to defend their borders from terrorism.
All that is required, he claimed, was that countries learn to balance national interest and international relations.

– Zohra Abdullah, First Year (College Magazine).

Talk with Mr. Nikhil Dey

The Political Science Association of Lady Shri Ram College organized a talk with the famous Right to Information Act activist Nikhil Dey on 29th October 2015. Mr. Dey spoke about the importance of RTI and its role in empowering citizens. He linked the RTI struggle to the feminist movement and helped students realise how each of their voices count. The session was very interactive and informative and brought to our attention many pertinent issues that neither the government nor the society at large talks about.

Mr. Dey started his lecture with the famous feminist slogan ‘the personal is the political’. Politics unfolds itself in various forms and manifestations in our daily lives. We all as individuals are political beings. From the simple act of voting to conforming to a certain idea of an ideal male or a female are all political acts. Moreover, according to Mr. Dey since all individuals are deeply political the onus to change all that is wrong with our society also lies with each one of us. Mr. Dey is part of the Mazdor Kisan Shakti Sangthan which played a pivotal role in the struggle for RTI. The movement started out with the demand for minimum wages for farmers but soon grew into a much large struggle for transparency and accountability.

The RTI bill was passed on 12th October 2005 which means this October the Right to Information Act will complete ten years of its existence. According to official statistics 8-10 million people every year file an RTI but according to Dey the actual number is much larger. This Act gave citizens the right to ask the government why are people dying of hunger and why basic facilities like education, employment, sanitation etcetera are not extended to those who need them the most. Mr. Dey compelled students to question the idea of a ‘shining India’ and look at the larger social, political and economic inequities prevailing in society.Students also saw a short documentary based on a girls’ school in Rajasthan where all students had come out on the streets to demand for more number of teachers and demanded that the government must soon address their concern. The talk was concluded with a small question and answer round.

Mr. Dey talked about how we need to stop deeming ourselves as powerless individuals and take things in our control by holding the government accountable. He urged all students to question the prevailing notion of development and argued that true development would come when all citizens of this country realise that the nation belongs to them and not to a mere bunch of capitalists. The most fundamental message that students took home with them was that a revolution starts with a single person. Power lies with each one of us we just need to claim it.

– Pritha Bhattacharya, First Year (College Magazine).