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

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The Intellectual Bilingual


The Discussion Map on EPW Engage titled “The Purpose of Language: Debating the Future of Intellectual Activity in India” (5 July 2018) is interesting. It features the discussions around Ramachandra Guha’s article “The Rise and Fall of the Bilingual Intellectual” (EPW, 15 August 2009) where he states that the “bilingual intellectual”—in terms of activity, knowledge or production—cannot flourish without a well-thought-out intellectual bilingualism. Unfortunately (and who else but Guha, Arundhati Roy and Mukul Kesavan are the representative examples), the trend in academic life in India has been such where bilingualism has remained “functional bilingualism,” rather than being intellectual, except on the Hindi–English axis. At Azim Premji University (APU), where I teach, we make a conscious effort to bring in students from diverse linguistic identities and encourage them to bring their mother tongues into classroom spaces. However, to find enough intellectual and academic texts in Indian languages has not been an easy task.

For example, there can be a course on “Nai Talim,” where those English texts that reflect on how M K Gandhi thought of an alternative education to challenge the education that was handed down by imperial policy would be picked up. But, what Jugatram Dave (founder of the Nai Talim institutions at Vedchhi in south Gujarat) wrote in Gujarati cannot be taken up because Dave’s seminal work on Nai Talim, Aashrami Kelwani (Education for Ashramites) remains without a translated version in English till date.

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Updated On : 23rd Jul, 2018
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