COMMITTEE FOR CULTURAL CHOICES AND GLOBAL FUTURES
The Committee for Cultural Choices and Global Futures was established In 1983 by a group of scholars in quest of a more holistic, politically sensitive, social knowledge. The group is guided by ..the belief that all knowledge is political intervention and that the responsibility for such intervention must be shared by the co-creators and transmitters of knowledge, that is the intellectuals.
The activities of the Committee are informed by three basic concerns: an intellectual concern for the ecology of plural knowledge, normative concern wfth cultural survival, and a political concern with the search for humane futures, for the belief that every representation of truth constitutes a vital but partial embodiment of truth, that truth as such is always a mystery which may never be fully untraveled, and that every representation of truth is a time-and space-bound social construction open to critical scrutiny.
The intellectual framework of the Committee's programme, as it has developed till now, Includes the following components.
I. The Committee believes that the world of knowledge today is structured by a confrontation between a dominant, unifying discourse and a set of sub ugated, marginalized ones. The dominant 'official' discourse is secular, scientific, managerial and nation-state based. Its melting pot models and assimilationist modes have created a standardized cultural mould, expressed in the modem culture already dominant In many societies. Thus, there is the official India of the textbook histories, theories of progress and secular statecraft, mirroring the middle-class search for western levels of consumption, technological fixes and national power. It is the India of socialism, secularism and modernisation, it Is, all said, an India produced by nineteenth-century Europe. For all their differences, this India and the modern West are tied together by the same discourse on development and progress, committed to the same process of Industrialisation, scientific growth and secularisation.
The discourse, and the logic of labelling ft uses, automatically specify the officially permissible pathologies. For the affluent Industrialised West, the problems are militarization (especially the nuclear arms race), consumerism, alienation. hyper-individualism, racism, male chauvinism, ecological devastation, and the racially-tinged [violence of the kind displayed in the two world wars, and In Algeria, Vietnam and Cambodia. For official India these are but the inevitable diseases In the career of an evolving secular nation-state, committed to Industrialization. The official directory of diseases In India I would also Include communism, over-population, epidemics, poverty and Inequality. The two officialdoms, those of India and the West, are tied together in the technocratic vision of their migratory consultants.
The scholars in the Committee do not deny the Importance of these problems, but they insist on viewing the problems critically and In a larger context. They believe that as a model, modernity has been monolithic and cognitively coercive. They believe that as a concept, the Enlightenment idea of progress has lost much of its creative potential, and It must now be brought into a pluralistic encounter with the possibilities it has suppressed.
II. The Committee, being concerned primarily with the politics of knowledge and with knowledge as power believes that the universities the world over now represent. the cultural dominance of the West as shown by the relationship between various forms of knowledge within them. In the university, science dominates the humanities,. public knowledge dominates personal knowledge, formal theory dominates empirical knowledge, the secular dominates the theological, and the national dominates the ethnic. The boundaries between the departments of an university are rigid and more sacrosanct than any political frontier. The university, symbolishing the official classification of knowledge, also excludes or marginalises many systems close to the people which offer the hope of serving as vantage grounds for new forms of knowledge.
Within the domain of medicine for instance, in much of the third world, the normal medical Institutions represent the dominant western medical system. The unani and ayurvedic systems do survive in India, but as secondary structures in small niches within the system. Likewise, the craftsman has no place in the research laboratory and a potter, blacksmith or a farmer is an ob ect of training and not a person of knowledge sui generis. Nor have the elaborate [networks of folk and craft knowledge any intrinsic legitimacy in the officialdom of knowledge. As a result, the conventional university has increasingly throttled the possibility of an encounter between the politics of knowledge within the academic world and the politics of knowledge outside.
Throughout the history of the university, however, dissenting academics have criticised and subverted the existing systems of knowledge and catalysed new conceptions of truth. There have been, for instance, small groups which have fissioned off from the university, worked, creatively on their own, and sometimes even merged back Into the formal scholarly community to continue as part of an ongoing tradition. The creativeness of this complementarity, often broken in the third-world societies, needs to be restored. No educational system, not even the most conventional one, Is complete without its dissenting academics.
The Committee sees Itself as a group of scholars from universities and research institutions seeking to initiate a dialogue and cross-pollination among the different order of peripheralised knowledge and as "an umbrella for younger researchers within or outside the academe, willing to self-consciously use alternative systems of knowledge as a mode of social criticism and political Intervention.
III. As a collective of intellectuals confronting the modern West within the non-Western world, the Committee seeks to explore forms of social knowledge outside the worldview of development, modern science, and the nation-state system. The Committee believes that the vocabulary of the modem world carries with It a metaphysical underworld -words, emotions, concepts, worlds which could be seen and worlds which are disallowed. That Is, the very use of certain concepts implies a set of actions logically flowing from the concepts and the very anticipation or engineering of a particular world involves the simultaneous denial of others.
For Instance, nationalism as an ideal and as a historical force has sought and powered the creation of modem politics In many societies. The careers of Mazzini, Ataturk or Nehru have embodied for many th rid-world scholars nationalist politics and its poesis. Yet, one must today confront the fact that nationalism has hidden, suppressed or d (stored other living realities. Nationalism has tended to absorb, eliminate or bastardise ethnicities. It has condemned as parochial or local the ontologies of tribes, folk-religions, and regions.. Nationalism does not even consider the cultural logic of these entitles as they constitute their own valid identities. For the various forms of nationalist thought these entities represent communalism, not communities.
The monolithic nature of such a vocabulary becomes even more obvious in science. If the nation-state is the privileged form of political order, science Is the privileged form of truth. The slogan of scientific spirit Is not a call for a liberated form of thinking but a tutelary statement disallowing the exploration of other possibilities. For modem science not merely seeks to hegemonise truth, it seeks to suppress Its own roots of creativity-separating Newton the alchemist from Newton the physicist, Goethe the poet from Goethe the scientist, and Srinfvasa Ramanu an the mathematician from both his native culture and the traditions of Indian mathematics.
The Committee hopes to recover a part of these suppressed archives, as an experiment In articulation of a more holistic truth, and as an 'anti-history' of official India and the West. It Is the responsibility of the third-world intelligentsia, the Committee believes, to recognize that the third world needs to protect not merely its own values but also the values of other cultures similarly marginalised in the West itself. For together the two sets of marginalised values constitute a global cultural repertoire for future generation.
In other words, the Committee accepts the argument that the third world has to be a 'guardian of memory' - of both what the West has sacrificed within Its own self and what it has annihilated In other cultures through its Imperial expansion. The two processes are linked, for the West could overpower others only by sacrificing a part of the western culture Itself. One hundred years ago, ML Sircar, while establishing the first modem science laboratory in India, wrote that India might have to rescue science from the western civilisation. And Gandhi always hoped to liberate Christianity from the modem West The Committee for Cultural Choices and Global Futures hopes to sustain and bulid upon this awareness through a continuing exegesis of the West.
IV. As part of this exercise, the Committee plans to take a critical look at one other key word In the philosophical dictionary of modernity, secularism. The scholars associated with the Committee believe that it is possible to avoid both theocratic models of pontics as welt as the' mechanical separation of religion and the state. They believe that new kinds of political creativity can be unleashed through encounters between politics and religions, In cultures which are organised.'around religions and in societies where religions have served as a form of resistance to the deculturation and desacralisation brought about by capitalism, Imperialism and the mass society. The Committee re ects the emptiness of secularism, as a source of de-ethnicisation and as a contributory factor in the rise of tcontemporary fundamentalism and ethnic violence.
In the specific context of India this re ection of secularism implies a revaluation on those
traditions of Indian patriotism which during the colonial period could use creatively the , encounters between politics and religion, as the lives of Ram Mohun Roy, Tagore, Tilak and Gandhi testify. The Committee acknowledges the need to revive such' ontonomlc dialogues between politics and religion. In such dialogues, It also plans to include | exchange between religions and between cultures, cutting across the existing national
boundaries and bypassing the standardised instruments of political exchange developed , by the nation-states of South Asia.
The Committee is oriented to the future, it believes it can contribute to the welfare of the future generations by opening up the worlds of politics as well as of knowledge. To do so lit proposes (1) to use the base' built by the post-modem and non-modem alternatives generated during the last few decades in the East as well as in the West and (2) to articulate the as-yet-inarticulate theories of resistance ventured by those who have been victims of the close links between modern knowledge and the global structures of power. .The Committee takes seripusly not only the victimhood of the subjects of these structures of power, but also the voices, the categories of thought, and the theories Of oppression of these victims.
Author:Dr. Shfv Viswanathan
All of us have', by now, come to realize the larger impact of chemical agriculture (viz., the Green Revolution) and, of such related developments, in other areas (viz., the White 'Revolution, the Blue Revolution etc. etc.). The serious and adverse effects of these forms 1 of technologies, and its adoption Intervention, has caught up with us - in terms of Its Impact on our environment - and, the delicate ecological systems which sustain life on this planet. We have seen how it has depleted our soil of micronutrients and biological support systems, altering its structural characteristics, and rendering It less and less capable of sustaining healthy crops., We have seen how It has, along with massive deforestation, wrought havoc on our water retention and distribution systems, by making Increasingly larger areas drought-prone or flood-prone. Rainfall patterns have turned erratic and groundwater supplies are becoming more and more elusive and difficult to tap. Human health and well-being is. under tremendous pressure, with the ever increasing incidence of chemical carcinogenic residues finding their way Into our bodies, through the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe.
More important, than all this, is the absolutely callous manner in which we continue to handle our genetic resources, a priceless living heritage which has ensured our continued survival. Our genetic diversity, which is the very basis of our ability to adapt to nature's whims and fancies, has been and continues to be so severely eroded, that we might end up losing out on our chances for survival. Much of what 'is happening is almost irreversible, at least in the short term framework. One by one, all the bridges are being burnt up, as we proceed with haste, 'developing' ourselves. AH this, has caused considerable and serious concern, among quite a few of us, who have been observing these processes overtake us in the course of our developmental interventions, at the grass-roots level. In response to these concerns, some of us met at Wardha, way back in March 1984, to discuss and debate on these issues. This was under the framework of a National Convention on Organic Farming at the Sevagram Ashram Pratishthan Dermises. The ob ective - the revitalisation of Our traditional -wisdom in these matters through organic natural farming and its related aspects.
One of the most important and encouraging initiatives that emerged from this Convention, was the formation, in substance, of an Association of people sharing these concerns - the Association for the Propagation of Indigenous Genetic Resources - APIGR. Pending the formal registration of such an association, an ad-hoc Committee was appointed, with the specific task of enlarging the debate and information exchange on these issues. Accordingly this ad-hoc Committee, organised three National Workshops on;
i) Rice and Rice Varieties: 4-6 Oct 1984.
ii) Cattle and Cattle Breeds: 18-20 Oct 1984.
iii) Indigenous Tree Species: 23-26 Feb. 1986.
Renamed as 'Samvardhan - APIGR', this association was formally registered both as a Trust, and as a Society, In Ahmadabad.
The objective of the Society is promotion of science and scientific research, for the preservation and propagation of Indian indigenous genetic resources - both plant and animal -as well as the practices, traditions and systems of use of the same for the balanced good of ail Including the people of India in consonance and harmony with natural ecological principles which have been part of India's traditional heritage. A meeting on Oil Seeds is being organised by Samvardhan on April 9th, 10th at Sevagram, District Wardha.
- Aims at consistently exploring, examining and analysing our past from a non-Western perspective
- To study in detail all development theories, models etc. with an Idea to investigate their genetic assumptions;
- To examine the interrelationship between the problems of 3rd world countires and the economic system of the developed world, and to show Its Implications for the developmental problems;
- Initiating in-depth studies on the economic relations, value systems, with particular emphasis on comparative analysis;
- To promote Inter-disciplinary approaches, for providing an Integrated and holistic picture of reality.
Author: J. K. Bajaj