Report on the Fourteenth International Conference

18-21 December, 2011

Transcending Disciplinary Decadence: Exploring Challenges of Teaching, Scholarship, and Research in Humanities and the Social Sciences  

(a) From December eighteenth through twenty-first, scholars from across the world gathered at the Fortune Park Bella Casa Hotel in Jaipur for the Fourteenth International Conference of the Forum on Contemporary Theory, an event co-organized by the Forum on Contemporary Theory of Baroda, and the ISS University of Jaipur. The conference was dedicated to “Transcending Disciplinary Decadence: Exploring Challenges of Teaching, Scholarship, and Research in Humanities and the Social Sciences.” Conference Conveners received a flood of proposals from around the world in response to their call for papers. Conveners accepted submissions from scholars working across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, bringing together a diverse group of intellectuals to discuss the challenges facing higher education contemporarily.  

In his thematic introduction to the conference, Lewis Gordon, Laura H. Carnell Professor of Philosophy, Religion, and Jewish Studies at Temple University , Philadelphia , visiting Professor of Philosophy and Government, University of the West Indies , Mona, and Convener of the Conference, suggests the perils of disciplinary decadence currently plaguing academia. Franz Fanon, Michel Foucault, Edward Said, and Arjun Appaduri, amongst others, address the colonization of knowledge, of ways of knowing, and of the institutions wherein knowledge is produced. The colonization of thought has shaped the modern university, an institution predicated on the existence of clearly defined disciplines. And yet, the modern university, Gordon suggests, noting Nietzsche’s conception of the naturalness of decay, is in a state of decline, a decline brought upon both by academia’s compartmentalizing nature and by narrow conceptions of who can produce and obtain knowledge.

Over the course of three days, participants examined the decline of institutions of higher learning and investigated a problematic epistemological foundation reigning in academia. Presenters debated the contemporary nature of scholarship, thinking through disciplinary decadence, and offering potential answers to a need for the renovation of academic disciplines, of systems of thought, and of notions of authority.

The conference began on Sunday, December eighteenth, a day dedicated to settling in to the beautiful Fortune Park Bella Casa Hotel and to exploring Jaipur, Rajasthan’s capital city known as “The Pink City.” Participants spent Sunday browsing the old city’s many bazaars while others visited historic landmarks including Hawa Mahal, the City Palace , and Jantar Mantar. While exploring Jaipur or settling in at the hotel, conference participants were able to spend time talking with each other, fostering a sense of camaraderie between co-registrants. People visited with acquaintances from previous conferences and developed new friendships. A level of warmth and familiarity could be felt at the Fourteenth International Conference of the Forum on Contemporary Theory, and the sense of community added to the success of the well-designed, profoundly meaningful, four-day event.

The conference sessions formally commenced on Monday morning with a welcome from Narendra Jain, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The IIS University, Jaipur, Prafulla C. Kar, Professor of English at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda and Convener, Forum on Contemporary Theory, Baroda, and convener Lewis Gordon. Narendra Jain thanked participants, and shared his hopes for a successful four days. And, Prafulla Karr also offered his gratitude, sharing with those in the audience the history of the Forum on Contemporary Theory and his hopes for and concerns about the Forum’s future. In his welcome, Lewis Gordon discussed the crises facing the humanities in an age of science and technology, expounding upon the thematic focus of the event. After welcoming conference participants, the special issue of the Journal of Contemporary Thought devoted to Tagore on the 150th anniversary of his birth, “Punctuated Renewals: Rabindranath Tagore in the 21st Century” was released by Keynote speaker, Arjun Appadurai. A vote of thanks was offered by Raakhi Gupta, Rector and Registrar, The IIS University.  

Arjun Appadurai, Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University , delivered the keynote address, titled: “The Empire of Discipline: Telos, Power and Inquiry in Euro-Modernity.” Professor Appadurai, a distinguished social-cultural anthropologist, opened his keynote address with Max Weber’s theory of modernization in order to critically trace the interrelations in European modernity between universalistic conception knowledge and its project of Imperial conquest. He introduced the theme of ‘trajectorism’ as the European model of knowledge and evolution of disciplines, addressing Foucault and Said, only to reexamine its validity and methodological traps. He concluded by offering prospects for the development of the social sciences in the global South through alternative frameworks and temporalities that may not presuppose world-conquest, setting the tone for the conversations and investigations that took place in the following days.

The Fourteenth International Forum on Contemporary Theory featured as plenary speakers renowned scholars from across continents and disciplines. Sonia Dayan-Herzbrun gave an address on readings of Edward Said’s Orientalism, exploring the concept Orientalism as an ideological apparatus of control. Dorothy E. Roberts, who shared the panel with Dayan-Herzbrun spoke about shifting notions of race and genomic science. Jasbir Jain and Jagdish N. Sharma both spoke on Premchand’s Godan, while Paget Henry turned to Afro-Caribbean and Indo-Caribbean Philosophy, illuminating a need for Post-colonial thought. During a shared session with Henry, Brinda Mehta discussed Indo-Caribbean Literature, focusing on Kala Pani, or transatlantic crossings. Rama Sundaram introduced the audience the Question box, a device that enables students and residents of rural areas access to internet databases via cellular technology. Nikolas Kompridis’ plenary talk looked towards a renewed role for the Humanities in the twenty-first century, while R. Radhakrishnan, with whom Kompridis shared the panel, spoke about the relationship between the world, the home and discipline.  

Along with the impressive plenary addresses, the conference hosted a diverse range of speakers, from seasoned PhD’s to budding graduate students. Presenters addressed epistemological issues, considered pedagogical needs and methodologies, explored the role of theory in disciplinary decadence, and offered potential solutions for the future. The presentations were delivered in rich concurrent sessions featuring a range of subthemes: “Critical Pedagogies from the Global South,” “From a Literary Point of View,” “Critique of Canonical Reason, Critique of Theoretical Reason,” “Rebellions, Existential and Otherwise, in the Midst of Decadence—Africa, the Middle East, and South America,” “Embodiment, Gender, Sex, Sexuality: Engendering and Queering Disciplinarity, Embodying Theory,” “Interdisciplinarity and Transdisciplinarity,” “Decolonizing Education,” “Popular Culture, Critical Epistemologies, and the Poetics of Decadence,” “Questioning Technologies,” “Critiques of Method,” “Crises in the Human Sciences, Liberating the Social and Life Sciences,” “Call for Innovation,” “The Future of the Humanities.” Participants spoke on the role of gender, sexuality, race, caste, religion, and location in terms of the production of knowledge and the maintaining of disciplinarily decadent institutions of thought. As well, presenters investigated the role of technology in the current state of academia. The diverse panelists and plenary speakers were able to share their thoughts and concerns, and other conference participants served as sounding boards for ideas. Each plenary talk and panel ended with a lively exchange of ideas and opinions in a question and answer format.  

The Cultural Program of the conference prepared by students of The IIS University took place on the last evening. The program featured a splendid performance of classical and traditional dance from the repertoire of Rajasthan and from throughout India , along with vocal and musical contemporary adaptations. The highly skilled performance received an enthusiastic reception from the audience who were thrilled by the fantastic program.

The closing Plenary, chaired by Dorothy Roberts, focused “On the State of Humanities and Social Sciences Research Today,” and featured Lewis R. Gordon, Bishnu Mohapatra, Patricia Pisters, Narendra K. Jain, and Prafulla Kar. In his closing remarks, Lewis Gordon explained that eradicating disciplinary decadence does not require the doing away with disciplines, but transcending disciplines in the pursuit of truths unburdened by the tethers of disciplinary divides. Bishnu Mohapatra interrogated the sense of unbelonging scholars crossing disciplinary boundaries may experience, asking participants, “Is unbelonging a bad thing?” Patricia Pisters suggested the benefits of a consideration of neuro-scientific and cognitive dimensions in the humanities. Narendra Jain pointedly addressed a modern obsession with money culture, a systematically alienating interest that erodes liberal arts. Yet, Jain suggests, literature lasts forever. And, Prafulla Kar, in the closing words of the conference, made a plea for the Humanities, encouraging participants to study the humanities in the age of technology and in an age of crisis, once dominated by disciplinary decadence.  

Over 130 scholars from India and abroad, working and teaching in various disciplines, participated in the Fourteenth International Conference in Jaipur. Their insightful plenary sessions and presentations contributed to a cross-disciplinary intellectual exchange that inspired fruitful debates, which will lead, hopefully, to further collaborations in the future. We would like to extend a last word of gratitude to the student volunteers of the IIS University , Garima Poonia, Jeevanshu Jain, Nandini Dusad, Nadita Gupta, Ruchi Sharma, and Sneha Jain, for their wonderful work and contribution to the success of this magnificent intellectual event.

Ariella Werden and Tal Correm, Temple University .


(b) “What should scholars in the humanities and social sciences be doing to prepare for the twenty-second century? Is a decolonization of knowledge possible? And how might problems of disciplinary decadence be overcome?” These were a few of thematic questions posed by Lewis Gordon in convening the 14th International Conference of the Forum on Contemporary Theory, Baroda . Jointly organized by The IIS University in Jaipur from the 19th to the 21st of December, 2011, the conference included presentations spanning history, literature, law, anthropology, political science and philosophy, to name a few. Such diversity created opportunities for new crossings and conversations. As Gordon describes, Exploring Disciplinary Decadence questions the problem that “emerges when researchers, scholars, teachers fetishize their disciplines and methods at the expense of reality and wider commitments.” The panels and discussions, which highlighted in an unprecedented manner the presence of a global south in terms of ideas, experience, and knowledge, inspired philosophical reflection and a critique of dominant narratives from various perspectives. While we cannot cover the entire range of excellent talks and debates here, in this report we highlight some of the plenary sessions and our interest in how certain themes emerged over the course of the conference, such as knowledge and ethics, the role the humanities and sciences in public life, and interpretations of history. We recall, among others, Jacques Ranciere's approach to "indisciplinarity" as a way of breaking the divides between a philosophical world of intellect and a social world as its object.

 The IIS University students, whose hard work helped make the week a success, opened the conference with an invocation, after which Narendra Jain highlighted the importance of Jaipur as a meeting place rich in heritage and history. The Forum has held meetings many times previously in the Pink City , thus establishing enduring networks. Prafulla Kar then remarked that connections growing out of the Forum may be unseen and “subterranean,” but such exchanges have “vibrancy in invisibility.” In this way Kar emphasized the importance to “see each other, to know each other, and to recognize each other” during the course of the conference, emphasizing the importance of such multi-layered collaborations and meetings. Gordon then reflected on the challenges of a "new globalism" and the importance of holding the conference in the global south. The institution, he remarked, is a set of relationships meant to cultivate humanity. Recalling the work of Frantz Fanon, he encouraged us to consider questions of epistemic colonization and the urgency of the moment, as academic work is a “precious activity” through which we can engage in action and exchange. The session closed with Arjun Appadurai ceremoniously releasing the Forum’s journal issue on Tagore, commenting on the poet’s fearlessness in crossing the line between “creative theory and creative practice.”

 Appadurai’s opening plenary session revisited modernization theory, the work of Max Weber, and the notion of looking at "theories of the future in hindsight." Elaborating what he termed the “meta-trap of trajectorism,” he asserted that one of the main problems with modernization theory was indeed the assumption that “time’s arrow has a telos.” Reminding the audience of the links between the European imperial project and the universalism of Enlightenment, he then proposed a “post-European idea of modernity" that "requires global expansion to be revealed and justified.” Furthermore, he asserted that, contrary to a dominant "metanarrative" of Western modernity, more than one version of trajectorism exists, and it is in fact "in the rear view that consensus is produced."

In the parallel sessions that immediately followed the keynote, Sunil Agnani spoke on “Hating Empire Properly.” Ostensibly talking about CLR James and his views on the Haitian Revolution and Toussaint Louverture, the presentation was also in a fundamental way about reading and learning. To elaborate, beginning with CLR James’s idea that Toussaint understood the slogan of the Enlightenment, “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” better than Rousseau and Robespierre, Agnani explained both James’s view of himself as a “Black European” and Theodor Adorno’s idea, developed in Minima Moralia, of “hating tradition properly." James saw in Toussaint an icon for real decolonisation because he found in him a way of reading the ideas of Enlightenment that threatened to destabilise other, more conservative readings used to support visions of slavery and colonisation. So on one hand, James avoids being a reductive oppositionist, one who writes off everything that the Enlightenment (as a conceptual system) stood for. On the other, he salvages something about the thought itself, not because it was innocent, but because it was interpreted in a radical way by someone, someone like Toussaint. The “political and poignant mistake” of the Haitian revolution was to take the universalism of the Enlightenment too seriously. Agnani remarked that the revolution, therefore, can be seen as a logical consequence of the ideas of equality and fraternity, ideas that the Enlightenment stood for, and not an aberration or something exceptional. In a similar move, James called himself a “Black European” because he believed that a critical interpretation of a so-called European ideology was possible.

To interpret, from this talk we found an emphasis on the idea that learning is at its heart a revolutionary activity. It is not simply a recoding or translation; rather, the simple act of appropriating an idea has the potential to transform the idea itself. We recall the conference theme of disciplinary blindness: the tendency to ignore how we objectify the world in the very functional logic and procedural ways of working. Because we might assume the effectiveness of our instruments of thought to address the world, we are blinded to the fact that those very instruments reduce the world, even as in the content of our thought we articulate an ethical response to it.

These sets of ideas were revisited again in a talk by Sonia Dayan-Herzbrun. Her presentation discussed the reasons behind the less-than-welcome reception in France of Edward Said’s Orientalism upon its release (with exceptions Todorov and later Bourdieu), in spite of its firm rootedness in all the French philosophical traditions—Sartre and Foucault, among others. She discusses the discomfort with Said’s affiliation with the PLO and furthermore, the fact that he raised questions about colonialism and knowledge production that were too close to the reality of the French intellectual scene. Said revealed the intimate ties that colonisation shared with the production of knowledge in the university and questioned the role of the intellectual as a detached, depoliticised seer-like figure. The irony, according to Dayan-Herzbrun, was that Foucault himself never seemed comfortable when questioned by a contemporary about his own position as an intellectual at the centre of a certain knowledge-making machine, a panopticon of sorts. Hence, the talk explored a notion of  “academic orientalism,” which made itself particularly insidious precisely by enforcing rigid disciplinary boundaries and reducing intellectuals from Palestine, say, to informants, and not philosophers, so that they were not deemed capable of really theorizing experience into a sufficiently universal theory of knowledge.

Dorothy Roberts then spoke on the imagination of race in new scientific research, which brought up larger questions regarding the differences between the sciences and the humanities. Roberts was critical of the impulse in many scientific communities to legitimize the connection between the scientific, genomic aspects of human beings and social or cultural differences like "race." She found an attempt being made, across disciplines and geographical boundaries, to define "race" in exact, quantifiable terms. According to her, at the same time that politicians discuss the decreasing importance of race, scientists were trying to link cultural construction to biological fact. In this fetish of the real, humanities scholars were being labeled as creationists, and genetic or biological scientists were touted as more realistic.

Brinda Mehta’s presentation discussed the framing of an Indo-Caribbean identity in the context of Francophone literature. While examining some key questions relating to the idea of “Indianness” in the French-speaking islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe , she addressed the role of migration in the “contamination” of religion, caste, and loss of essential Hindu identities in the shaping of Indo-Caribbean literature in new and unexpected ways.

Also focusing on Indo-Caribbean literature, Paget Henry’s lecture was an appeal for new ways to understand the relationship between languages and the world. Henry urged us to bring about a fusion of the aesthetic, poetic or literary ways of knowing the world with scientific or materialistic approaches. He emphasized what he termed “creative realism,” defined simply as an “episteme that combines an understanding of historicism with a language of poetic expression.” Henry stressed the importance of knowledge of both materialism and mathematical precision and a more lyrical relationship between language and reality, such as poetry. He described both the sciences and the humanities as languages that should have a conversation and shape each other instead of silencing one another.

 R. Radhakrishnan’s lecture addressed the very specific case of the teaching of literature. He wondered how one could transcend the reifying logic of one’s discipline and yet be recognised as disciplined, and therefore able to stake a claim and to communicate with other disciplines. The first problem with the attempted transcendence was a technical one-- that is, what was it that one wanted to transcend? Being self-reflexive, he suggested, should not contradict but rather complement good disciplinary practice. We recall Gordon’s critique of “procedural” intellectual production that simply followed procedures efficiently but in no way went beyond what was necessary.

 Nikolas Kompridis’s lecture, entitled “Towards a Counter-Science of the Human,” compared the sciences with the humanities in terms of their stance on a very elementary question: what is the human? He described his attempt as a Foucauldian one, because instead of trying to offer a finished account or a description, a "counter-science" was an attempt to simply “prevent the foreclosure of the question” in order to make room for the articulation of newer, alternative definitions and modes of being human. He discussed the example of the initiation of the Human Genome project; while scientists celebrated the move, many philosophers and social scientists received the news with dismay, precisely because the questions were frozen. For example, instead of asking how we can learn more about DNA, it became easy to equate the meaning of the human with the mapping the nucleotide sequence, for which genetic scientists had unique knowledge and experience. Kompridis concluded his eloquent account with a suggestive line that summed up this investigation: “The idea of developing the counter-science is not to answer the question of what it means to be human, but to have something towards which one feels answerable.”

 By this time one could trace, in the proceedings of the conference, a recurring concern with the act of knowledge production. Referring back to the post-lecture discussion from Roberts's lecture on the narratives of "race," Mohamed Mehdi considered the role of the sciences in answering complex questions that the social sciences and humanities posed. For example, he asked how humanities scholars would respond to a hypothetical scenario of a creation of an absurd "anti-gang" pill. Broadly, we reflected on the fact that sciences on their own cannot address social problems. Nikolas Kompridis had also revisited this questioning stance in the topic of his lecture by illustrating the links between critical perspective and social consequence.

In addition to all of the talks, other events complemented the sessions. The students of The IIS University offered a lively program of vocal and dance performances. Between events, participants enjoyed the flavors of local North Indian cuisine during meals, which facilitated lengthy discussions on not only the content of the talks, but social issues and personal histories. As per Forum’s tradition, a lively discussion took place on a novel written in the local language.  Here, noted scholars Jasbir Jain and Jagdish N. Sharma offered papers on Premchand's Hindi-Urdu novel Godaan, (The Gift of the Cow) discussing issues of gender and caste.

The final panel and discussion of the conference revisited the themes of the previous days. Bishnu Mohapatra asserted that disciplinary decadence should be described “in the plural,” his talk inspiring more thought on the notion of freedom, "emotion as not anti-reason," the trap of trajectorism, and what he asserted as the need to for humanities scholars to create “our own genealogies.” Patricia Pisters then spoke on film, neuroscience, and the cognitivist tradition in the humanities. She discussed some limitations of neuroscience by demonstrating that even within the history of cinema, a tradition has remained concerned with the mental process of seeing and of creating images. She illustrated, through an astute reading of Tarsem Singh’s beautiful film The Fall (2006), how works of art, particularly films, have the ability to creatively represent the working of the mind. She helped us to consider ways in which such aesthetic practices can be more enabling than neuroscience, which claims to “know” exactly how the mind works by the use of imaging technologies. Are the neurosciences asking new questions or simply foreclosing the answers to an old question? Narendra Jain then spoke clearly on the value of literature as form of communication and reflected on the continual risk of the commodification of leisure. Prafulla Kar discussed, in a moving lecture, the relationship between literature and technology. He spoke of the value of a sense of “fuzzy incomprehension” and compared this to the illusion of complete knowledge produced by most modern technologies. Beginning with writing, which Socrates described in Phaedrus as a technology that destroyed human memory, one could begin to see that all modern devices have a tendency to characterize knowledge as an individualized commodity, disregarding human impulse to communicate, which is how knowledge is shared and recognized. Gordon then read out excerpts from a letter he wrote to a journalist who once asked him what kinds of jobs philosophy graduates can expect to find once they leave University. His letter expressed a concern with the tendency to see the humanities in a narrow, economically productive sense. He asserted that humanities and social sciences are being lured into a trap by being forced to answer questions about job security, when in fact their role was partly about creating a space where different questions can be asked. In order to differentiate the humanities from the sciences, he said that one needs to look at the difference between an image and perception, and go from the sign to the symbol. So signification is something schematic, a conceptual matching of sets between signs and images, whereas symbolisation is relational, depending on human interaction. The move from signification to symbolisation was seen as a move from something mechanized to something organic or human.

The symbol, in this account, is not irreducible to something else, interpretation being a mechanical de-coding function. This recast the question of science, humanities and the human in new terms, by bringing them into conversation with a fourth term, interpretation.

To summarize, after the conference, the question one was left with was, can one distinguish between sciences and humanities as different modes of interpreting the same object? Or, is there something about “objective interpretation” itself that reeks of this mechanization? One was reminded of Susan Sontag’s conclusion to “Against Interpretation”:  “[i]n place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art.” The conference thus left all the participants with new ideas for further thought; it revealed to us again precisely what was at stake in the act of thinking: the sharpness of a new ethical urgency, the transcendence of boundaries, and in plain language, a need for continued exchange as global citizens.

Aruni Mahapatra, University of Delhi and Leah Koskimaki, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore

 International Conference on “Icons and Illusionists: Lawyer- Statesmen and Constitutional Democracy,” 22 December 2011, at The IIS University , Mansarovar, Jaipur

 The International Conference on the theme “Lawyer- Statesmen and Constitutional Democracy” held in collaboration with The International Lincoln Centre, Shreveport , USA at The IIS University, Jaipur on 22 December 2011 made inroads to a less explored terrain of scholarship. The Convener of the conference, Professor William Pederson from the International Lincoln Center , Shreveport , USA could not attend the conference because of some problem with his Passport, but authorized Prafulla Kar to substitute him as the Convener and look after the conference proceedings.  The conference was not merely an investigation into how the lives and struggles of lawyers, statesmen, policymakers and the like influence histories of states and shape political ideologies; it addressed broader issues concerning law, justice, democracy, sovereignty, biopolitics and resistance. Professor Prafulla C. Kar briefly introduced the conference theme and discussed the relevance of remembering illustrious lawyer-statesmen, their achievements and follies in our turbulent times. Dr. Lewis Gordon of Temple University , USA in his keynote lecture reflected on the political, social and cultural implications of law and justice by weaving together historical incidents and anecdotes. While pondering on the possible interpretations of justice and illustrating the instances of violation of justice, Gordon tried to look at the idea of the ‘sacred’ and the impact it would have in the conceptualization and practice of justice. He clarified that the notion of the sacred can exist independent of religious dogma. His novel argument paved the way to an elaborate discussion.  Professor Paget Henry from Brown University spoke passionately about the election of Obama as President against several odds reflecting the subterranean persistence of forms of racism in the American psyche. Therefore, according to him, his electoral victory was a watershed in the history of American politics.

The conference had sessions on the interpretations of justice and democracy in literary works, the life and work of eminent lawyer- statesmen and the idea of constitutional democracy. The contribution of such lawyer-statesmen as Lincoln, Gandhi, Ambedkar, Nehru, Obama, Jinnah, Mandela and many others to constitutional democracy was discussed.

Literary imagination can lead one to situations that even lived experience cannot comprehend and capture. The first session of the conference on “Literary Antecedents to Law, Justice and Statesmanship” was an exploration of the paradoxes, ambiguities, serendipities and dead-ends in the understanding of law and justice.  Two papers on Antigone presented by Jyotirmaya Tripathy and Piyush Raval looked into divine and human justice, and the biopolitical dimensions of law and governmentality. The tragic vision of the Greeks revolves around the idea of a higher plane of justice that cannot be elucidated through human logic. At the same time, the actual governance of the polis is a concern that calls for an apparently inhuman imposition of law. Bini B.S. looked at the tragic plight of Billy Budd in her paper and tried to interpret the phenomenon of justice being confined to the narrow dictates of law in the light of Agamben’s idea of the state of exception. She illustrated the polyvalent nature of justice in Melville’s novella, Billy Budd. Mashrur Shahid Hossain, in his paper “La luta continua: Changers vis-à-vis Status-quoists in Ngugi wa Thiongo’s Petals of Blood” explored the narrative strains of cruelty, injustice, resistance and survival in the novel. The chair, Bishnu Mohapatra, initiated a lively discussion following the session.

 The post-lunch session, “Lawyer-Statesmen from India/Pakistan,” chaired by Nikhil Moro, analyzed the lives, writings and careers of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal and Motilal Nehru. Dr. Moro used the metaphoric associations of colonialism and cricket to explain the nature of colonial domination. He focused on Gandhi’s subversive acts against the British rule. Lajwanti Chatani spoke on the nuanced historicity of the writings and political activities of Motilal and Jawaharlal at a crucial moment of national history. The last session examined the intellectual and political contributions of lawyer-statesmen round the world. Md. Manzur Alam presented a paper titled “Benito Juárez: Mexico’s Icon” in which he read the life of Juarez against the testing times of Mexican History and argued why Benito Juarez deserves to be considered a national icon. Mandakini V. Jha analyzed the illustrious career of Mary Robinson, an Irish International Lawyer-Statesman. Both these papers were co-authored by Ronald J. Byrd. De-Yuan Kao’s paper titled “Chen Shui-Bian: President/Prisoner” was a journey through the harrowing experiences and triumphant survival of Shui-Bian. Melinda K. Shepard in her paper “Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore ” reflected on the significance of Lee Kuan Yew not only in the political history of Singapore , but also in the history of social change across the world. James Winchester used a collage of philosophical writings, speeches, media reports, and interviews to humorously examine the perspectives and policies of Plato, Alcibiades, and Bill Clinton. Jyotirmaya Tripathy, who chaired the session, commenced an insightful discussion by commenting on how individuals intervene in history through their ideas and actions.

 The papers presented in the conference, by examining life-worlds in literature, history of nations and lives of lawyer-statesmen, widened the horizons of perspectives on law, justice, democracy, and governance.  

Bini B.S.      Balvant Parekh Centre for General Semantics and Other Human Sciences, Baroda