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.
The Political Ecology of Palk Bay Fisheries: Geographies of Capital, Fisher Conflict, Ethnicity and Nation-State
About the Lecture
Abstract: Increasing tension between Indian trawl fishers from the state of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lankan artisanal fishers from the Northern Province in the Palk Bay has resulted in the Sri Lankan government patrolling the international maritime boundary line (IMBL) more stringently and increased arrests of Indian trawl fishers. Indian trawl fishers regularly engage in cross-border fishing to the detriment of Sri Lankan artisanal fishers whose nets are irreparably damaged. This paper argues that the present ‘fisheries crisis’ in the Palk Bay must be understood from a political ecology perspective that takes cognisance of the circuitous and contradictory nature of capital accumulation. It also emphasises the need to pay attention to how accumulation and the spatial practices of trawl fishers have been shaped by geographies of capital, fisher conflict, ethnicity and the nation-state.
Ajit Menon is Associate Professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, where he works on the political economy of natural resource conflict and political ecology. His research is aimed primarily at understanding how and when the environment becomes important, as well as the contestations both material and ontological that underlie conflicts over the environment in general and the commons in particular. Forested landscapes in south India have provided the site for most of his research but he is increasingly interested in the political ecology of fisheries as well. He believes the practice of interdisciplinarity is central to the study of the environment, and is very interested in collaborative research across disciplines and the epistemological challenges of such research. Dr. Menon has published several journal articles and book chapters on forest management, conflicts over the commons, and environmental policy, and most recently, the co-edited volume: Sharad Lele and Ajit Menon (eds). 2014. Democratizing forest governance in India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi.
On Philosophy and Economics
About the Lecture
Abstract: Questions in and about economics that are of philosophical interest arise in at least three areas. First, there are questions about the scientific status of economics. For example, if economic models are literally false representations of reality, how can they aid understanding or action? Second, there are puzzles arising within economic theory, especially concerning the notion of rationality. For example, why model economic agents as homo oeconomicus if such a being would be a rational fool? And third, there are matters concerning the relation between economics and normative questions of economic policy. For example, what would be an optimal savings rate in the very long run? Such questions are conceptually challenging and there is no consensus on answers. This lecture will explore a selection of such questions.
Frank Thomson is Lecturer Emeritus at University of Michigan at Ann Arbour and is currently visiting Christ University as a Fulbright Senior Specialist. Frank has a Ph.D. degree in Philosophy from Harvard and a Ph.D. in Economics from University of Michigan. He has published extensively in the area of economics and philosophy.
Can India’s Welfare Programmes be Reversed? : Reflections on the Politics of Public Services in India
About the Lecture
Abstract: Under the new government, advocates of economic “reforms” have redoubled their efforts to dismantle what little India has of welfare programs. This talk will explore how far these efforts could succeed by looking at the politics of public services in India. It will argue that unlike in the past, there is increasing pressure from the common person on the government to deliver public services such as schools, healthcare, water and electricity which would make any reversal of a welfare state unsustainable. The talk will examine the roots of this public pressure starting with the experience of Tamil Nadu and related dynamics in other parts of India. The talk will be based on his recent book, Delivering Public Services Effectively: Tamil Nadu & Beyond (Oxford University Press, 2014).
Vivek Srinivasan is Academic Research & Program Manager, Liberation Technology at Stanford University. He developed an enduring interest in ensuring that everyone in India has access to basic public services during his activist days with India’s Right to Food Campaign. This led to his PhD in Social Sciences at the Maxwell School of Public Policy, Syracuse University, on understanding Tamil Nadu’s remarkable success in providing basic services to all, which was recently published as Delivering Public Services Effectively: Tamil Nadu & Beyond (Oxford University Press, 2014). He holds a Master's degree in Economics from Delhi School of Economics.Currently he leads a team of social scientists and engineers in a project to make basic public services transparent to the rural poor. Through this, his team hopes to combat corruption and promote greater accountability in programs used by the majority of the poor in India.For a detailed bio, please visit http://viveks.info/me
Radical Ecological Democracy: Towards a Sustainable and Equitable Future
About the Lecture
Growing evidence of the ecological unsustainability and iniquitous nature of the current economic development model is prompting a search for alternatives. While various approaches to ‘green’ the economyare being suggested, these are often managerial or technofix-dependent, without fundamentally challenging the political, economic, and social structures that have created the problem in the first place, and without providing an alternative to ‘growth’ as the dominant economic ideology of today. Are there alternative frameworks that can point the way to a truly sustainable and equitable future? Do elements of such frameworks already exist in concept and in practice, and if so, what principles can be derived from them? What needs to be done to make the transition towards such a future?The presentation will attempt to answer these questions, focusing on one such alternative framework,Radical Ecological Democracy. This framework arises from the myriad grassroots initiatives at meeting basic needs, and achieving alternative modes of governance, production, distribution, and consumption, that have sprung up in many parts of the world; a key focus will be on India which the author is most familiar with. This framework focuses on meeting human needs and aspirations of well-being through direct or radicaldemocracy, localized economies embedded in ecological and cultural landscapes and free of centralized monetary monopolies, notions of human well-being that relate to actual needs of people and to qualitative values like satisfaction and social security, democratic knowledge and technology generation, and sustaining cultural diversity and exchange. It proposes a mix of localization and globalisation, the former providing communities essential control over means of production and consumption, the latter affording possibilities of intercultural exchange and mutual learning.While proposing such a framework, the presentation will also raise some key questions for further exploration, including the role of the state and private corporations, the relationship between the individualand the collective, and the political agency for achieving the transition.
Ashish Kothari is founder-member of environmental group Kalpavriksh, Pune. He has coordinated India’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan process, served on Greenpeace International and India Boardsand steering committees of two IUCN Commissions. Author or editor of over 30 books, including Churning the Earth, Ashish Kothari is currently focusing on Radical Ecological Democracy as an alternative to economic globalization.
We or Our Nationhood Re-defined
About the Lecture
The history of majoritarian mobilization in India is not as old as is made out. Communalism, as we know it today, began around the early twentieth century. It was fueled, in part, by classes that felt threatened by the rise of a nationalist movement that was beginning to espouse egalitarian ideas. Today this majoritarianism drapes its mission in the national flag and dons the mantle of "development". We would like to ask some questions of this phenomenon: Who is this development for? Can development and majoritarianism go hand in hand?
Anand Patwardhan was born in 1950. He received a B.A. in English Literature from Bombay University in 1970, won a scholarship to get another B.A. in Sociology from Brandeis University in 1972 and earned a Master’s degree in Communications from McGill University in 1982.Anand has been an activist ever since he was a student — having participated in the anti-Vietnam War movement; being a volunteer in Caesar Chavez’s United Farm Worker’s Union; working in Kishore Bharati, a rural development and education project in central India; and participating in the Bihar anti-corruption movement in 1974-75 and in the civil liberties and democratic rights movement during and after the 1975-77 Emergency. Since then, Anand he has been active in movements for housing rights of the urban poor, for communal harmony and against unjust, unsustainable development, miltarism and nuclear nationalism.
What is Wrong with the media and what can be done about it
About the Lecture
The talk will look at the media landscape that has emerged over the past twenty years of liberalization. The focus will be largely on the English media landscape because while regional news outlets may have greater reach they still tend to take their cue from the English media. The nature of the various revenue models that have emerged imply in this period that the process of selection what is considered newsworthy leaves out the concerns of a vast section of the citizenry, and prevents the emergence of dissenting voices and alternate views. As the growth of digital communication alters the media landscape, the question that remains is whether media in this medium will follow much the same path or are selective interventions possible that do prevent us from repeating the mistakes that have already been made in print and television.
Hartosh Singh Bal is political editor of Caravan Magazine, and has earlier worked with publications such as Open Magazine, Mail Today, Tehelka and The Indian Express. He is the author of Waters Close Over Us, A Journey along the Narmada and co-author of A Certain Ambiguity, a mathematical novel. He is an M.S. in Math from NYU and B.E. Mech, Pilani.
Towards cultures of sustainability
About the Lecture
Discussions of sustainability have tended to focus on the environmental, resource and economic issues involved. While these are obviously central, they tend to ignore the cultural and sociological aspects. But in reality these are essential dimensions in at least three respects - the problems of our consumer based civilization that has created many of the problems of resource depletion, pollution, oil dependency and urban concentration that now confront us; the issues of transition to a future sustainable form of society and culture; and the forms that that society might take given inevitable shifts in energy usage, technology, food supplies and possibly such contentious issues as population limitation. This session will attempt to set out the key issues involved in a cultural and sociological approach to sustainability and to encourage debate about alternative futures that are rooted in local cultural, historical and ecological conditions.
John Clammer is visiting professor at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Sustainability at the United Nations University, Tokyo, where he teaches the sociology of development. He has taught in universities in the UK, India, Australia, Germany, South Korea, Argentina and Japan. His main current focus is on issues ofculture and development, sustainable cultures and the sociology of developing societies. He has written widely on these subjects including the recent book "Culture, Development and Social Theory: Towards an Integrated Social Development" (London and New York: Zed Books).
Globalization, Higher Education and Inclusive Development: Redefining the Policy
About the Lecture
Higher education policy in India is under pressure to reform to be globally competitive and develop the skill base for a knowledge economy. Simultaneously there are measures to widen access to higher education, increase enrolments and be more inclusive, in part a response to the ‘youth bulge’ in the country’s demographic. These are often discussed as contradictory goals in which inclusion is seen to compromise quality and therefore our ability to be globally competitive. From a Left perspective, how do we redefine the policy paradox? This talk is an attempt to reassess our current predicament and share some insights from an ongoing collaboration with Pune University that links equity and excellence in higher education.
Sangeeta Kamat is Associate Professor in Education Policy Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Her areas of research are education and globalization and critical development studies. She is author of Development Hegemony: NGOs and the State in India (OUP, 2002) and is working on a second book on education markets and uneven development in the Andhra-Telangana region. Her most recent publications include 'New development architecture and post-politics in the global South' and 'Neoliberal urbanism and the education economy: producing Hyderabad as a global city'. Dr. Kamat received the Obama-Singh Higher Education Knowledge Initiative award in 2013 to support a three year collaboration with Pune University on issues of diversity, equity and excellence in higher education.
Art in Education
About the Lecture
I will argue that the study of the arts plays a central role in education. One reason is that encounters with the arts are intrinsically valuable: they enrich people's lives by sensitizing them to aspects of the world that they would otherwise overlook. Our lives are better when we can see more deeply into things. A second reason is more instrumental. Encounters with the arts foster skills, incentives and orientations that are valuable in science, human relations and everyday life. Because works of art are symbols, students need to learn to use and interpret them in order to take advantage of the opportunities that the arts afford. The abilities students gain through the study of art transfers to other disciplines.
Professor Elgin is a philosopher whose focus is the theory of knowledge and the philosophies of art and science and language. She holds a Ph.D. from Brandeis University. She is well known for her several joint works with philosopher Nelson Goodman. Her seminal work has addressed the questions like ‘what makes something cognitively valuable?’ As an epistemologist, she considers the pursuit of understanding to be of higher value than the pursuit of knowledge. In her influential book ‘Considered Judgement’, she argues for “a reconception that takes reflective equilibrium as the standard of rational acceptability. Her other work include Between the Absolute and the Arbitrary, With Reference to Reference, and co-author (with Nelson Goodman) of Reconceptions in Philosophy and Other Arts and Sciences.
A Dialogue on framing sustainability from the South - PART- I
About the Lecture
Abstract 1:Interdisciplinarity plays a major role in the debate about the crisis and the future of the University. If the 20th century can be identified as an era of specialization in Academia, there is a tendency now to add interdisciplinary spaces to the traditional disciplinary organization of research and training. Non-academic research institutions are showing more flexibility than universities to respond to problem-oriented demands. A rigid disciplinary academic framework prevails and enhances limitations to the need to tackle complex demands, such as sustainable development. Young universities, such as those from the so-called “South”, can play an important role in showing how to build paths to integrating rather than opposing disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity. Abstract 2 : By many measures, including infant mortality, under-nutrition, and life expectancy, human well-being is improving in many places throughout the Global South. Too often, sustainability scientists from the Global North overlook the central importance of human well-being. Rather, they focus on the negative impacts of development on environmental indicators such as greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss. This view understandably alienates those in the Global South. A framing of sustainability needs to recognize that meeting human needs are the first and foremost concern. The core question for sustainability is whether there are alternative paths to economic development that are less damaging to the environment and more socially-just than the existing model. To date, there is no clear answer to this question. Sustainability therefore needs to focus on incremental approaches that foster improvements in human well-being while minimizing negative environmental impacts. Abstract 3 : Millennials appear to have bought into sustainability as a critical issue, even if sustainable practices are not yet first choices in their daily lives. This emerging openness of minds is a prime opportunity to begin to transform learning. Giving students no choice but to incorporate social, economic, ecological and institutional thinking into their studies, projects, analyses, and exams is an apparently simple but profoundly complex first step in changing the ways institutions of higher education can play their central role in addressing sustainability for coming generations. The practice of the pyramid (the three well-known “legs” of social, economic, and ecological factors, topped by the “point” of institutional issues) will not come naturally or automatically to either faculty or students. Resistance already ranges from simple ignorance to complex political posturing involving creation of real and artificial institutional barriers. Rather than approach the pedagogy of sustainability from the perspective of the “expert provider” I assembled a diverse group of public policy graduate students (from India, Indonesia, Vietnam, North America) in the School of Public Policy at Oregon State University to provide the perspective of “receivers” or “engagers.” The students raised challenging themes and questions, which will form the basis of my talk.
The speaker, Ruth DeFries is the Denning Family Professor of Sustainable Development in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology at Columbia University in New York City.