Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The language disconnect

Excerpts from a response by N.Kalyan Raman to Ramachandra Guha Intellectual Bilingulaism:
"Increasingly, our public sphere is occupied by social scientists, administrators, historians, journalists, TV anchors, technocrats and plain academics who cannot even hold a conversation of ideas in any Indian language. Such fancies as they do harbour about a sense of community – including activism and inquiry – are played out ineluctably in the metropolitan arena, nearly always among their own kind. It keeps them busy enough, I imagine, but they are nevertheless subject to two inescapable consequences of their choice: ignorance of and disengagement from the life-currents of a larger community.
...we must commend Guha for his reference to “a separation of discourses,” even if he does not elaborate on it. It is indeed true that the English language discourse
is separate from discourses in other Indian languages.It is equally true that in the public sphere, the former is privileged over the latter. While the English language discourse is accessed by other linguistic communities as an integral part of their epistemic strategy, no such osmosis is feasible or permitted in the English language discourse. Seldom do we encounter articles or columns translated from Indian language magazines and newspapers in the English language press. This fails to happen even if the event in question is the siege of Lalgarh or Tamil Nadu’s expression of anguish over the lost cause of Eelam or the post-Godhra riots. Nor does it seem feasible to make the work of Indian language scholars readily available in English translation. Therefore, the “separation of discourses” is largely put in place and maintained by the community of monolingual Anglophone Indian intellectuals
for their own reasons.
Guha’s article could also be construed as the recognition of a crisis in the
monolingual Anglophone community of intellectuals in India. The arena of their
engagement seems increasingly limited to metropolitan life, affairs of the central
government, commerce and industry, the Anglophone diaspora and an endless parroting of voices and ideas from the western world. Beyond this, they have no means of participating in – or influencing – contemporary political, cultural and intellectual currents which would be inevitably shaped by the subaltern classes in the natural course of our quest for a more democratic society."

While there seems to be some truth in this, there semay be other problems as well. For many leftists Marxism has become a theory that explains every thing and they refuse to learn or think beyond that frame.
P.S. Umair Ahmed Muhajir in Blind Spot:
"The more interesting aspect for me is the light this sort of report casts on the extent to which India -- more accurately the urban Indians who are able to do most of the talking in India’s name -- remains West-centric in its thinking, and colonial in its assumptions. Ask anyone about India’s development (human or otherwise), and the benchmarks one is likely to be presented with are Western ones, or of countries that have successfully transformed themselves into advanced capitalist economies on the Western model (such as Japan, South Korea, and most pertinently for the contemporary Indian imagination, China).
But clearly, countries such as those mentioned above must be doing something better than India is, and its time we took them seriously enough to learn from them. A worldview that is hung up on “catching up” with China and “the West” is one that sees “development” in terms of global prestige and national self-image -- not social justice. In seeking to frame the issues in terms of a supposedly inevitable ascension to global power status in the future, we are in the process of making today a casualty."

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