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

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Theories of Oppression and Another Dialogue of Cultures

One of the fi rst tasks of social knowledge in India today is to return agency to the communities at the receiving end of the system. We can do so only if we take seriously the various cultural modes of self-expression of these communities. Democracy can be a slow-moving, inept, obtuse tool in the case of small communities. But it still remains a powerful enabling device for those not pushed to the margin of desperation. Instead of shedding copious tears for the poverty and the exploitation of the dalits and adivasis, the time has come to celebrate their self-affi rmation and the enormous diversity of cultural, ecological, artistic, technological and intellectual riches they, as communities, have nurtured over the millennia.

Every generation likes to believe that it is living in momentous times, witnessing the death of one world and the birth of another, negotiating what pre-war Bengali writers used to grandly call yugasandhikshana, the moment when two epochs meet. This generation of Indians too believes that it is seeing such changes and even participating in them. Perhaps they are. However, I shall argue here that, along with transitions in society and politics to which they like to stand witness, there are transitions in cultures of knowledge and states of awareness of which they may be gloriously innocent. And they perhaps try to protect that innocence. The categories we deploy to construe our world images are parts of our innermost self and to disown them is to disown parts of ourselves and jeopardise our self-esteem. Even when we struggle to shed these categories, they survive like phantom limbs do in some amputees. Or perhaps they survive the way one of Freud’s three universal fantasies, the one about immortality, does. When you imagine yourself dead, you are still there, fully alive, looking at yourself as dead.

Poisoned Gift

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