The Azim Premji University regularly organizes seminars, webinars and colloquium lectures involving members of the faculty as well as academicians, activists, artists and other distinguished personalities from a wide array of fields. This section consists of video recordings of  major events conducted at the Azim Premji University.

Reflections on the Broom: Material Culture, Caste and Development

Rustom Bharucha


About the Lecture

Drawing on my book Rajasthan: An Oral History – Conversations with Komal Kothari and excerpts from the documentary film Jhadu Katha (Broom Stories), directed by Navroze Contractor, I will reflect on the social processes and interrelationships connecting material culture, caste and develop ment, as represented in the most humble and inconspicuous of objects in everyday life: the broom. Outlining some of the central principles of Kothari’s empirical research, grounded in a critical observation of rural material and cultural practices, I will focus on how orality catalyzes new modes of thinking through an interconnectedness of diverse contexts of traditional knowledge systems.  How are these systems linked to both the hereditary and mutant manifestations of caste, and to what extent are the means of livelihood supported by these systems open to social development and new engagements with the market?These questions will be problematized through a sharing of two different kinds of research – one linked to the writing of oral history and the other to the making of a film in which the voices of people are pivotal to the overall narrative. In both cases, ‘orality’ is constructed, subject to the immediacies and political choices of editing and framing.  Within these protocols of different kinds of documentation, how does one tell the stories of the broom in everyday life?  And how do they resonate within the larger political and social matrix of materiality, caste, and development operating in Rajasthan and beyond?In the spirit of a conversation, these questions will be thrown open to the audience for discussion, who will be encouraged to think aloud on how an object as seemingly folkloric as a broom is actually embedded in some of the most pressing contemporary realities of our times, relating to survival, ecology, humiliation, self-respect and resilience.

About Speaker

Rustom Bharucha is Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies in the School of Arts and Aesthetics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.  He is the author of several books including Theatre and the World, The Question of Faith, In the Name of the Secular, The Politics of Cultural Practice, Rajasthan: An Oral History, Another Asia: Rabindranath Tagore and Okakura Tenshin and the forthcoming Terror and Performance.

The Recolonisation of the Indian Mind

Peter Ronald deSouza


About the Lecture

In a seminal lecture, subsequently published as "Swaraj in Ideas" in 1929, KC Bhattacharya lamented the impact of Western education on India. In deeply evocative language he wrote', it 'induces certain habits of soulless thinking which appear like real thinking. Springing as these do from a rich and strong life - the life of the west - they induce in us a shadow mind that functions like a real mind except in the manner of genuine creativeness'. In this lecture I will return to the three ideas in this statement (i) the organic link between a cultural life and an intellectual life, (ii)  a shadow mind and creativity, and (iii) resistance to this induction. The issue to be explored is whether we today are faced with a recolonization of the Indian mind  or whether we live in a plural knowledge universe where there are remote possibilities of recolonization.

About Speaker

Professor Peter Ronald deSouza taught political science at Goa University for 16 years and has been with CSDS, Co-Directing Lokniti since 2003. He has written on Panchayati Raj and the 'second wind' of democracy in India, party hopping, and the party system in India, electoral violence and its sources, Dalits and discrimination, trust and political institutions, and freedom from fear and human security. His abiding interest is in threats to freedom of expression in democratic polities and in issues of righting historical wrongs. In addition to numerous articles he has edited two books, Contemporary India: Transitions (Sage, 2000) and India's Political Parties (with E. Sridharan, Sage, 2006). He was one of the three principal investigators of a five nation study on the State of Democracy in South Asia (2006). deSouza has served as an expert for the UGC on political science, for SSRC on a survey of social sciences, and has been a consultant on matters of governance, rural decentralization, equality, and discrimination for the World Bank. He was Director, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla between 2007 and 2013.