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VII Theory/Praxis Course

A Report


The 4-week long Theory/Praxis Course was held at Kottayam, Kerala in collaboration with English Department of St. Berchmans College, Changanassery from the 15th June to 11th July 2009. Forty-two scholars from a range of disciplines participated in the Course. The participants included three from abroad—one from the USA; one from Canada; and one from Bangladesh. The Course was conducted by a team of core faculty which included Akeel Bilgrami and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak from Columbia University, Renisa Mawani from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, Esha Niyogi De from the University of California at Los Angeles, Michael Marder and Patricia I. Vieira from Georgetown University, Washington DC.  The range of topics taught in the Course included included “radical democracy and enlightenment”; “law and imperialism”; “subaltern studies”; “globalization and gender”; “suffering and trauma”; and “future of democracy.” Vivek Dhareshwar from the Centre for the Study of Culture and Society, Bangalore delivered two public lectures on “Gandhi and Scientism.” The Course was inaugurated at 10.00 am on June 15 at St. Berchmans College.  Professor Rajan Gurkul, Vice Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi University, who is a well-known historian, gave the inaugural speech and declared the program open. Akeel Bilgrami spoke at the inaugural session on the need for such inter-disciplinary courses for scholars in India.


















   Lighting of the lamp at the inauguration by                                                    Akeel Bilgrami with participants

                  Prof. Rajan Gurukul and other Guests


















        Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak with participants                                                  Kathakali Performance


The venue of the program, Apostolic Oblates Secular Institute Spirituality Centre at Manganam, Kottayam, was a lovely location for such an event.  Away from the noise and crowd of the city, and surrounded by hills and rubber plants, it provided the desired solitude and peace for deep reflection on complex ideas addressed in the Course. Both faculty and participants stayed together on this campus and interacted with each other both formally and informally. The Course facilitated among its participants both social and intellectual bonding, which, we are sure, will lead to fruitful exchanges in the future. The sisters who run the Spirituality Centre were extremely gracious and hospitable to all of us, and made our stay very comfortable and pleasant The local coordinator of the program, P J. Thomas, who teaches English at St. Berchmans College, looked after both the faculty and participants very well throughout the duration of the Course; in order to break the monotony of continuous reading and discussion he arranged some cultural programs like kathkali dance performance by a well-known dancer, and boat trips on the river Pompa and backwaters. The houseboat trip for the whole day, arranged on a Sunday, was such a treat that we will cherish it for ever. 

















                 Esha Niyogi De with participants                                                 Patricia I. Vieira with participants


















                Michael Marder with participants                                  Participants'  dramatic rendering of working of democracy


The Course ended with a valedictory session in which the Principal of St. Berchmans College, Dr. Stephen Mathews, addressed the participants and faculty and thanked the organizers of the Course for bringing it to Kerala. In the open session with the participants during the valedictory many suggestions were made by the participants for improving the quality of the program in the future. Everyone appreciated the range and variety of the themes covered and the quality of teaching and presentations made.  We hope that the Forum will continue to offer such programs for strengthening the effort to foster inter-disciplinary dialogue on issues of contemporary relevant among scholars across the country and abroad.


C. Upendra                                         Academic Fellow, Centre for Contemporary Theory     


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