ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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How to Become a Good Public Intellectual?

This essay is an attempt to ruminate on Romila Thapar’s writings on and as a public intellectual in today’s India. Edward Said’s 1993 Reith Lectures, titled ‘Representations of the Intellectual’ are taken together as a springboard for stimulating a conversation around Romila Thapar’s ideas on syndicated Hinduism, citizenship, nationalism, technocracy, dissent, and democracy. Rabindranath Tagore, D.D. Kosambi, A.K. Ramanujam, Amartya Sen, and Giorgio Agamben enter this conversation too, but on Thapar’s terms and with Said as the interlocutor. This essay asks a series of questions including ‘Who is a public intellectual?’, ‘What is her role in the society?’, ‘Why is Romila Thapar’s voice as a public intellectual so important?’, to argue that the public intellectual is a political being, a societal necessity, and the quintessential ‘anti-national’, all qualities exemplified in the life and works of Romila Thapar.
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