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.

Scientific Rationality and Ethical Rationality- Dr Narendra Dabholkar Memorial Lecture - Part 2

Sundar Sarukkai and Sudesh Ghoderao

11/11/2014

About the Lecture

Contemporary debates on rationality, particularly those that deal with its opposition with superstition and faith are deeply influenced by the idea of scientific rationality. This should not be surprising since right from its origin rationality in western thought has been intrinsically associated with and modelled on mathematical and scientific ideas of reason and knowledge, which are primarily about the truths of the world. This form of rationality is not necessarily the same as the rationality behind human action. The philosophy of social science has engaged with many different forms of rationality including critical, instrumental, practical and economic rationalities, but the invocation of rationality in the public discourse in India is often understood almost entirely as scientific rationality. Given the narrowness of this understanding of rationality, we can see why there is a constant conflict between this discourse and social practice. I would like to suggest that it may be more useful for such movements to invoke a more complex understanding of rationality, one that integrates scientific and ethical rationalities. This may not be easy task but it is perhaps the only way of dealing with the growing problem. While some philosophers have attempted to ground ethics itself in some form of universal rationality, the challenge for social movements on the ground is far more complex. Firstly, the relation between science and ethics is itself contentious. Secondly, one of the primal sources of human action lies in the ‘irrationality’ of death and desire, two fundamental human conditions. Thirdly, there are different kinds of ‘scientific’ rationality available in other Asian traditions. The real challenge for us is then is to find ways of integrating these different possibilities in order to develop a meaningful and ethical framework for social change in India. 

About Speaker

Prof Sundar Sarukkai is the Director of the Manipal Centre for Philosophy & Humanities, Manipal University. He is the author of the following books: Translating the World: Science and Language; Philosophy of Symmetry; Indian Philosophy and Philosophy of Science; What is Science? and The Cracked Mirror: An Indian Debate on Experience and Theory (co-authored with Gopal Guru). He is an Editorial Advisory Board member of the Leonardo Book Series published by MIT Press and the Series Editor for Science and Society, Routledge.Dr. Sudesh Ghoderao, Secretary, National Coordination, Maharashtra Andhshraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANiS) to introduce his organization and share some snippets on the life of Dr Narendra Dabholkar.

Scientific Rationality and Ethical Rationality- Dr Narendra Dabholkar Memorial Lecture - Part 3

Sundar Sarukkai and Sudesh Ghoderao

11/11/2014

About the Lecture

Contemporary debates on rationality, particularly those that deal with its opposition with superstition and faith are deeply influenced by the idea of scientific rationality. This should not be surprising since right from its origin rationality in western thought has been intrinsically associated with and modelled on mathematical and scientific ideas of reason and knowledge, which are primarily about the truths of the world. This form of rationality is not necessarily the same as the rationality behind human action. The philosophy of social science has engaged with many different forms of rationality including critical, instrumental, practical and economic rationalities, but the invocation of rationality in the public discourse in India is often understood almost entirely as scientific rationality. Given the narrowness of this understanding of rationality, we can see why there is a constant conflict between this discourse and social practice. I would like to suggest that it may be more useful for such movements to invoke a more complex understanding of rationality, one that integrates scientific and ethical rationalities. This may not be easy task but it is perhaps the only way of dealing with the growing problem. While some philosophers have attempted to ground ethics itself in some form of universal rationality, the challenge for social movements on the ground is far more complex. Firstly, the relation between science and ethics is itself contentious. Secondly, one of the primal sources of human action lies in the ‘irrationality’ of death and desire, two fundamental human conditions. Thirdly, there are different kinds of ‘scientific’ rationality available in other Asian traditions. The real challenge for us is then is to find ways of integrating these different possibilities in order to develop a meaningful and ethical framework for social change in India. 

About Speaker

Prof Sundar Sarukkai is the Director of the Manipal Centre for Philosophy & Humanities, Manipal University. He is the author of the following books: Translating the World: Science and Language; Philosophy of Symmetry; Indian Philosophy and Philosophy of Science; What is Science? and The Cracked Mirror: An Indian Debate on Experience and Theory (co-authored with Gopal Guru). He is an Editorial Advisory Board member of the Leonardo Book Series published by MIT Press and the Series Editor for Science and Society, Routledge.Dr. Sudesh Ghoderao, Secretary, National Coordination, Maharashtra Andhshraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANiS) to introduce his organization and share some snippets on the life of Dr Narendra Dabholkar.

Social Cohesion, Information Diffusion, and Technological Progress: A Case of Handloom Weavers' Clusters in Southern Kerala

 Anant Kamath

29/10/2014

About the Lecture

This study applies the concepts of social capital and embeddedness, as well as homophily, in understanding learning and information diffusion in a low-technology cluster. It studies how social cohesion can be an obstacle to economic and technological progress. We work towards understanding an embeddedness–homophily connection with the support of a case of the decline of a formerly dominant handloom weavers’ community in southern Kerala -- the Saliyars. We build the evidence that the Saliyars’ networks were characterised by ‘homophilous-embeddedness’, which, we show, has been relayed and reinforced across generations. Due to this attribute, the Saliyars are placed as an example that counters the standard line in the literature that community cohesion has been historically congruent to technological progress and knowledge diffusion in handloom in India. This study also promotes an economic-sociology understanding of technological progress and learning -- an area that is still nascent.

About Speaker

Anant Kamath completed his PhD in the Economics and Policy Studies of Technological Change at the United Nations University / MERIT (UNU-MERIT), Maastricht, The Netherlands, in 2013. Prior to this, he studied economics and social science in India for his MPhil at the Centre for Development Studies (Trivandrum), for MSc at the Madras School of Economics (Madras) and for B.A. at St. Joseph’s College (Bangalore). He also spent a year as Visiting Researcher at the Department of Sociology of the University of Georgia, United States. His current research interest is on the social construction of innovation, learning, and technological progress. He has various peer-reviewed publications to his credit in this field, and his book on this theme, based on his doctoral research and published by Routledge (UK), is due to release in early 2015.

First Cry (Paheli Aawaaz) [Screening of a Documentary Film]

T. G. Ajay

16/10/2014

About the Lecture

“Of the people, by the people, for the people” are grand words that rarely find a meaning in reality. Shahid (Martyr’s) Hospital is a rare exception. In 1981, under the leadership of Shankar Guha Niyogi of the Chhattisgarh Mazdoor Shramik Sangh (CMSS), the mine workers of Bhillai Steel Plant in Dalli Rajhara in Chhatisgarh, India, acted on a need sorely felt by them, to have a hospital that would not turn them away, to cater only to the “middle classes.” Over 10,000 daily-wage contract mine workers voluntarily donated their wages and labour to build the hospital, brick by brick, with their own hands. The workers invited doctors like Dr. Binayak Sen, Dr Saibal Jana and others to join and they themselves trained as auxiliary staff to assist them. Today, the hospital runs itself and provides the best of modern healthcare to workers, adivasis and the poor, at minimal cost. First Cry, tells us the remarkable story about how this hospital came into being and how it continues to be an oasis of hope even today.  It traces the history of the making of the hospital, critical events that shaped it, and the experiences of the doctors and worker- paramedics who manage this oasis of hope.

About Speaker

Born in Kerala (Thirusur), Ajay T.G. has lived in Chhattisgarh (Bhilai Nagar) since 1979. Actively involved in local politics since his school days, Ajay is an independent filmmaker. Between 1999 and 2002, Ajay was trained in all aspects of film production at the European Union-sponsored film training diploma course in Bhilai, Chhattisgarh. Subsequently, he has worked in varying capacities – as Producer, Director, Cameraperson and Editor for 17 documentary films.  In 2011, his film – Andhere Se Pehele (Before the Dark; Director) which documents the struggles for livelihood of adivasi peasants in Raigharh district (Chhattisgarh) won second place award at the Jeevika Livelihood film festival.  This film has been screened at various other film festivals. Some of Ajay’s other films include: Living Memory (Co-director, screened at a season of South Asian Documentaries and Films, King’s College and the Cambridge South Asia Forum, Cambridge, UK, 2003); Safar (Co-director, screened at Sheffield International Film Festival, 2001). Before becoming a filmmaker, Ajay was a still photographer. In 1996, his photo-exhibition titled “Potters in Chhattisgarh” was hosted at Shepherd’s Bush public library and Hammersmith public library, London, UK.. Apart from filmmaking, Ajay is also a human rights activist (currently, he is the Joint Secretary for the Chhattisgarh PUCL). 

Esperanto in a Glocal World: Language, Democracy and Globalization

A. Giridhar Rao

15/10/2014

About the Lecture

In a world of the "Glocal", the intertwining of the global and the local, what roles can the planned language Esperanto play? How does Esperanto address issues of language and power? How can this "Lingvo internacia" contribute to intercultural dialogues? As a frame to address these questions, the talk will introduce the structure of Esperanto, and the linguistic community and culture that have evolved over the last 127 years.

About Speaker

A. Giridhar Rao's doctoral work on science fiction twenty years ago led him to Esperanto, another child of the European Englightenment. He teaches Esperanto, publishes and blogs in the language, contributes to the Esperanto Wikipedia, and is active in the worldwide Esperanto community. A long-term project is to translate Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography into Esperanto. He is the Secretary of the Indian Esperanto Federation, and a Corresponding Member of the Academy of Esperanto.

How Relevant is the Public Sector in Contemporary India

S. Krishnan

09/10/2014

About the Lecture

Since Independence, the central Public Sector Enterprises have played an important role in the industrialization of our country. They span all sectors of the economy: defence, banking, insurance, petroleum, infrastructure, electronics, steel, among others. In many sectors, private companies compete with the public sector as there is little that is reserved exclusively for the public sector. Should the government continue to be in the business of running businesses? If yes, in what sectors?  And, are the governance and management of public sector enterprises attuned to operate in a competitive environment? Are there comparative lessons to be drawn from the experience of running state run enterprises from other countries? The panel discussion will engage these questions.

About Speaker

S. Krishnan, an officer of the Railways Accounts Service, has, in a span of over five decades,  donned several managerial roles such as: Deputy Financial Advisor in Indian Railways,  Divisional Finance Chief in Bharat Heavy Electricals, the first Director of Finance in Bharat Electronics, full time Professor at  Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, the first Dean of Xavier Institute of Management & Entrepreneurship, Bangalore, Nominee Director of a HSBC group company on the board of Kurlon Ltd and Planning Consultant for FOSROC (India) Ltd.   Strategic Management and Business Ethics were the subjects he handled at the Institutes. S. Prabhala joined the Electrical branch of the Indian Navy in 1954 after graduating in Electrical Engineering from Guindy Engineering College, Madras. His services were lent to Mazagon Docks, Mumbai from 1964 to 1970 for the construction of  Leander class frigates. He was awarded the Visisht Seva Medal in 1972 for his role in the frigate project. He was promoted to the rank of Captain in 1973 and was deputed to Bharat Electronics, Bangalore, in 1974 to head the Radar Development group. He retired from the Company in 1991 after serving as Chairman and Managing Director for 5 years. He is a member of the Board of Governors of Centre for organization Development, Hyderabad and Chairman of Bangalore Environment Trust. Dr VK Koshy has a doctorate in Microwaves Antennas from the Delhi University. After serving three years in the Indian Space Research Organisation, Ahmedabad, as a microwave  engineer, he joined Bharat Electronics, Ghaziabad in 1974 to set up the antenna development department. In 1988 he moved to the Corporate Office in Bangalore to head the newly set up International Marketing department. He served as the Chairman and Managing Director for nearly 7 years before retirement in 2003. He was conferred the award for “Excellence and Outstanding Contribution to the Public Sector Management” for the year 2001 by the Standing Conference of  Public Enterprises (SCOPE). After retirement from BEL, Dr. Koshy served as an Independent Director on the Board of two PSEs.

The Databased Citizen

Usha Ramanathan

25/09/2014

About the Lecture

UID, Natgrid, NPR, Netra, CCTVs, CCTNS, these are some acronyms. Databasing, convergence, tagging, tracking, profiling are emerging phenomena. The UID aspires to create an `identity platform' and wants all persons on its data base. This is to be an identity infrastructure and the operative words are - unique, universal, ubiquitous. Corruption and inefficiency are used to explain why we must so enrol ourselves with the state. The National Population Register,and the National Register of Citizens that is to follow from it, invokes illegal migrants, terror and militancy to explain away the insistence that every person must become transparent to the state, and to whoever else is able to build on these identity platforms. There are proposals for a Human DNA Profiling Bill 2012 and for DNA data banks. There is a draft Land Titling Bill 2011 which demands that every piece of land, and the distress and vulnerability of the land holders be recorded and open to view, every piece of land be uniquely identified, linked with the UID, and that the title is to be "considered as evidence of the marketable title of the titleholder". Corruption, terrorism, brutal rape, inefficiency are offered to explain the normalising of surveillance. ID numbers in repositories, biometrics, DNA in databases, camera capture of faces and persons. Fear, alarm, threat, risk. The Transparent Individual is to turn the RTI on its head. Does surveillance really make the citizen/resident secure? What does it mean to be databased?

About Speaker

Dr. Usha Ramanathan is an internationally recognized expert on law and poverty. She studied law at Madras University, the University of Nagpur and Delhi University. She is research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, teaches environmental law, labour law and consumer law at the Indian Law Institute and is a regular guest professor at many universities around the world. She is a frequent adviser to non-governmental organisations and international organizations. She is for instance a member of Amnesty International's Advisory Panel on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and has been called upon by the World Health Organisation as a expert on mental health on various occasions. Dr Ramanathan is also the South Asia Editor of the Law, Environment and Development Journal (LEAD Journal), a peer-reviewed academic journal jointly published by IELRC and SOAS. Her research interests include human rights, displacement, torts and environment. She has published extensively in India and abroad. In particular, she has devoted her attention to a number of specific issues such as the Bhopal gas disaster, the Narmada valley dams or slum eviction in Delhi.

Nature without Borders: Opportunity and Challenge in an Emerging Economy

Mahesh Rangarajan

18/09/2014

About the Lecture

Nature does not respect borders that people draw. Yet the securing of spaces of nature to protect ecological integrity and preserve biological diversity has been lynch pin of efforts at conserving nature in India. Even as such spaces are deeply contested by rival claimants, Professor Mahesh Rangarajan emphasises there is also need to rethink how ecological interests are to address the fluidity of water and wind, birds and animals. This does not entail ending efforts at secure protected zones but to go beyond these efforts in a manner that draws on scientific insight but engages with those who live in and use those land and waterscapes. Drawing on recent innovative approaches, it suggests how to secure gains and move ahead. In a nutshell, it argues against a rigid one size fits all approach and sees much potential for making spaces for nature in crowded country with an expanding economy.

About Speaker

 Professor Mahesh Rangarajan is the  Director of Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, New Delhi. He has studied at the universities of Delhi and Oxford and taught at Cornell, Delhi, Jadvapur and the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore. He was till recently Professor in Modern Indian History at the University of Delhi. His most recent works include the co edited Environmental History as if Nature Existed ( 2010), India's Environmental History (2012) and two books in press, Nature without Borders and Shifting Ground. He is also working on a collection entitled Nature and Nation.

Child marriage and submarines in Sakha and Sandesh Notes on tones and half tones in magazines for children

Rimli Bhattacharya

11/09/2014

About the Lecture

How do we elaborate on the well-established proposition that childhood is a construction varying in time and across cultures? We have become wary of recovering the unmediated ‘authentic’ voice of the subject—whether a child, a woman or a marginal subject. Do forms of address in different genres that are primarily meant for children tell us anything about a ‘dialogue’ with children? Within this broad framework, and working with a mix of images and texts from two periodicals—Sakha and Sandesh, I draw on my ongoing exploration of children’s periodicals in late 19th and early 20 century Bengal, to raise more specific questions:What are the different ways in which childhood has been conceptualised in these magazines? How has knowledge been conceptualized in a colonial context for children, outside of school textbooks? What is the significance accorded to science and technology in a discourse of progress? How is the latter reconciled with faith? How do we gloss knowledge, information and entertainment—in our own times? And, what's literature got to do with this? The historical perspective is intended to open up for discussion and reflection these and other questions that have a critical contemporary relevance.

About Speaker

 Rimli Bhattacharya,  has trained in Comparative Literature and works on a range of genres and forms in a number of languages, Indian and others. She has published on children’s literature, art and artists, performance history and actresses, and film. Her corpus of translations from Bangla into English includes autobiographies, novels, short stories and essays.She has worked in primary education in various states of India, focusing on the conceptualisation and production of teaching-learning material. From 2004-2006 she was involved in an international collaborative project on “The construction of the subject English in secondary schools in London, Johannesburg and Delhi.” This extended into several other projects with MPhil students on lullabyes (in Asomyia, Mizo and Kumaoni) and on school textbooks (Sur Pippa: ‘Notes on Running Feet’ is a co-authored monograph on ‘Subject English’ in NCERT English Marigold textbooks, Bhopal,Eklavya 2012.)Her ongoing involvement with the classroom experience informs her M.Phil. seminar on ‘Children’s Literature: Childhood, pedagogy and literary forms’ offered at the University of Delhi. Group projects are an integral part of this seminar Rimli Bhattacharya has taught at Jawaharlal Nehru University, MS University of Baroda and has been the Rama Watumull Distinguished Indian Scholar at the Center for South Asian Studies, University of Hawai’i at Manoa and ICCR Visiting Chair at the Dept of South Asian Studies, University of Pennsylvania. Since 2001, she has been teaching at the Department of English, University of Delhi. She is currently Professor, Gender Studies, at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta where she is working on the Centre’s extensive digitized archive of children’s journals and book illustrations. She is also completing a monograph on Dhan Gopal Mukherji, an early twentieth century Indian based in the US who became a renowned author for juvenile fiction.

Law and Language Policy in Education

E. Annamalai

04/09/2014

About the Lecture

Language Policy in Education is concerned with language(s) to be learned by students and the language(s) through which they learn other subjects. The policy is made by the government keeping in mind its economic, social, cultural and linguistic goals. The citizens may have their own goals and language choice to achieve them and their policy may not coincide with the policy of the government. They or their representatives may try to challenge the policy through political or legal means. The courts look at the legal maintainability of the policy from the point of view of fundamental rights of citizens given to them by the Constitution, which include the citizen’s right to education. The obligations of the state and the rights of the people may be found by them to be in conflict. The talk will describe the way in which the courts come to see a conflict and will examine if the conflict is real or is a result of an ideologically based interpretation of the Constitution. It will show that the solution to the apparent conflict lies in a proper understanding of language pedagogy divorced from language politics.

About Speaker

E. Annamalai, Director Emeritus, Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore; Visiting Professor, Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago (Please see the attachments for details of his academic career and publications)