Videos

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.

Radical Ecological Democracy: Towards a Sustainable and Equitable Future

Ashish Kothari

19/02/2015

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.

About Speaker

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

 Anand Patwardhan

12/02/2015

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?

About Speaker

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

Hartosh Singh Bal

06/02/2015

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.

About Speaker

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

John Clammer

03/02/2015

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.

About Speaker

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 

Sangeeta Kamat

29/01/2015

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.

About Speaker

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

 Catherine Z. Elgin 

16/01/2015

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.

About Speaker

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

Marcel Burstzyn

14/01/2015

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.

About Speaker

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.

A Dialogue on framing sustainability from the South - PART- II

Marcel Burstzyn

14/01/2015

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.

About Speaker

The speaker, Marcel Bursztyn, is a professor in the Center for Sustainable Development at the University of Brasília.

A Dialogue on framing sustainability from the South - PART-III

Marcel Burstzyn

14/01/2015

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.

About Speaker

The speaker, Sally Duncan is the director of the OSU Policy Analysis Laboratory (OPAL). OPAL is designed to support real-world experience for policy students, helping them better understand the differences between theory and practice, and boosting their experience as they begin their job searches.

Indian Sign Language: Problems and Prospects

Samar Sinha

29/12/2014

About the Lecture

The cumulative philosophical, historical, social discrimination that the Indian Deaf1 community has passively resisted has resulted in the suppression of Indian Sign Language (henceforth, ISL). This has resulted in further violation of their right to education through mother tongue, a violation of linguistic human rights. Consequently, linguistic violation has become a hindrance in empowering Deaf community in India. The most important question regarding empowering the Indian Deaf community is the most appropriate way to impart education. The key political issue in relation to policies in education and beyond in India continues to be a battle, on the one hand, between signing vs. oralism, and on the other hand between ISL and other SLs viz. BSL, ASL, and Total Communication.The educational methodologies practised so far in India are far from realising their very purpose of empowering Indian Deaf community. Oralism has been professed to ‘normalize’ deaf children by teaching them spoken-written language. Along with misconceptions and ignorance of the nature of SL, such a pedagogical practice arises from perceiving SL as a threat to ‘normalcy’ because it separates the child from the rest of the society. As a matter of truth, oralism violates right to mother tongue education, the most important linguistic human right and may push Deaf communities towards a linguistic genocide (Skutnabb-Kangas 2000). ISL in particular is excluded and suppressed as a result of misconception about ISL and due to the lack of pedagogical materials and support. In lieu of ISL, implanted sign languages like ASL and BSL or Total Communication are the medium of instruction at educational institutes for Deaf operating in India. These institutional efforts, in the name of benevolence, by altering, shifting, and consequently uprooting the language of the community is no better than oralism as it also results in a violation of linguistic human rights.With the establishment of institutions like Indian Sign Language Cell (ISL Cell), Mumbai, language policy formulation is carried out along the lines of the ‘Recommendations of the Commission on Sign Language’ of the World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf. The development of course materials (marks the onset of the standarisation process) for teaching/learning ISL, teacher training, and linguistic research on ISL are some of the Cell’s core area of activity currently. However, such efforts both at the activists’ and the institutional level are not free from problems as linguistics is embedded within it.The proposed paper aims at highlighting the problems faced in the efforts towards recognition of the linguistic human rights of the Indian Deaf people in empowering ISL and how linguistics can supplement in solving these issues. Finally, the paper calls to the linguist’s community to address the contemporary problems regarding ISL by translating problems into prospects (Cf. Dasgupta 1999) and in maintaining linguistic rights and linguistic ecology, to which scholarly analysts are accountable.1 The lower case ‘d’ is used for audiological deafness. The upper case is used as a linguistic and cultural entity.

About Speaker

Dr Samar Sinha teaches linguistics in the Dept. of Nepali, Sikkim University. His Ph.D. thesis 'A Grammar of Indian Sign Language', a pioneer work on Indian  Sign Language, is a detailed   grammatical   study of Indian Sign Language and Indian Deaf Community. His research on Indian Sign Language has  contributed  significantly to   our   growing understanding   of   natural   human   language   in   general   and   Indian Sign Language in particular, and towards the empowerment of Deaf community in India. He is also associated with the development of a Part of­ Speech tagset and a Lex tagset for annotating Nepali corpus as well as for Indian Sign Language text based on the EAGLES framework for all Indian languages. His areas of interest are syntactic theory, lesser-known languages, language technology, and Himalayan Studies. He currently heads the Centre for Endangered Languages as its Coordinator.