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Mission Statement: ‘Decolonisation’

The need for the kind of rethinking suggested by the word ‘decolonisation’ is urgent because of the opportunistic, constricted versions of history…

Studio photo of Bharatnatyam dancer T Balasaraswati and singer in the Carnatic classical tradtion M S Subbulakshmi, 1937. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The 6th International Symposium in the ‘Literary Activism’ series: ‘Decolonisation’

The need for the kind of rethinking suggested by the word ‘decolonisation’ is urgent because of the opportunistic, constricted versions of history, culture, and science that have been passed on to us as our only available inheritance among possible modes of self-understanding. Yet we must locate this sense of increased constriction, and the moment leading up to the call to decolonise, not only in the continuing relevance of colonial histories, but in the three-decades-old bubble of globalisation with its new enclaves of privilege: enclaves that not only include rich neighbourhoods but also academia. ‘Decolonisation’ can’t, then, be just a corrective, or, for that matter, policy; it has to involve an embrace of the kind of seriousness that the bubble (which is by no means synonymous with the West) abhors. I’m interested in ‘decolonisation’ as an opportunity to enquire into the formation of cultural histories and modernity, to put to one side fundamentally unworkable categories (like ‘East’ and ‘West’), and to learn to work outside the parameters that not only colonisation but the European Enlightenment has given us. ‘Decolonisation’ may need to express itself as policy; but it must also work imaginatively and, in a crucial way, challenge policy. I speak about this as a writer, of course, as well as a critic, anthologist, translator, and musician: as someone who, like many other ‘postcolonial’ writers, or like the so-called ‘colonised’ writers and artists before myself, don’t recognize ‘being colonised’ as a defining cultural category. Personally, I belong to a tradition that has had multiple inheritances and has had no wish to deny them. Such traditions have long worked towards new ways of thinking, and bringing culturally inflected perspectives of modernity to extant, narrowly ‘universal’, categories.

Amit Chaudhuri
7.1.2021

For the schedule, go here

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