Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Summer Again

Its here, the great white angry heat, and the melons have appeared and the raw mangos. Early mornings bring ecstactic birds, there is enough to eat, and the dogs roam in packs lazily looking for food and water. The cats have camaflouged into the bushes, and the peacocks shreik every morning, dropping leaves from the trees in a rustle of wings and morning ardour.
White heat, white light, and then, just that momentary cooling abstraction of a morning drizzle to make everyone hope for a future. Still the cucumbers and the okra are here, and we will go back to making aam panna (boiled raw mangos pulped with sugar, rock salt and coriander leaves) to bring the heat down.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

ASA 12, conference of Social Anthropologists from U.K at JNU, in collaboration with School of Arts and Aesthetics and CSSS, JNU

It was a great conference, with people milling in the Convention Centre and then heading towards the various panels. The interesting theme "Arts and Aesthetics in a Globalising World" was a combined effort of various people who have taught or researched the aspect of Arts and Symbols. The planning took three years, one of the organisers said five hundred emails had been exchanged, and yes, the details of it were laboriously worked out by Rohan Jackson and his team in UK, and Bharat Kumar in India. This meant co-ordinating with caterers, hotels, audiotorium staff, 400 speakers, (speaking in 60 panels) and in all about 550 delegates, who all arrived for a challenging week. Luckily the electricity held out, and though there were two National holidays, the austere staff still managed to help all the delegates and organisers. Fifty students volunteered and a core group of twenty or thirty students ran about or manned the registration desks. Were there problems? There must have been, but the sense of jubilation and debate was such that the participants took the change of circumstances and life style in their stride. But that is what Sociologists and Social Anthropologists are expected to do...adapt and inform the discussion with their wit and wisdom. Dame Marilyn Strathern, whom I had heard give a wonderful talk at Delhi School some months ago, on Maori Society and the politics of identity gave us a lovely concluding note, and in her elegant way, suggested that the feedback of the conference come from the participants.
The sessions themselves were amazingly interesting. I enjoyed one called "Publishing, prestige and money in global anthropology" which was convened by Thomas Reuter and Gordon Mathews. Along with Vesna Vucinic Nescovic, Gaurav Murgai (whose paper was read in absentia) and Ravindra Jain the writers critiqued policies of hierarcization and exclusiveness of multinational publishing with its European and American biases, arguing for the free transmission of ideas, internet open acces, and the emphasis on translation and polyglot cultures. This kind of intervention is really welcome when young academics are being oppressed by the API ranking system, which is very hard to decipher by its subjectivities of what is good literature or good science or good social science.