Thursday, 1 February 2018

Alex M. George is going to present a working paper on 'Diversity and Inclusion in Hindi Language Textbooks for Elementary Schools of Madhya Pradesh'

This paper explores how Hindi language textbooks address the issue of diversity and inclusion. These textbooks are prescribed by the Government of Madhya Pradesh and used in the state board elementary schools. In Madhya Pradesh people speak different languages such as Malwi, Nimadi, Bundelkhandi, Gondi, Korku, Bareli, etc. Nevertheless, Hindi is the only language of communication used in state board elementary schools as well as for all administrative purposes.
Many studies have highlighted the central role played by textbooks in school education in India. Textbooks are the only material used in classrooms. Hindi language textbooks are a compilation of different literary genres and writers. Through the process of selection of material in textbooks, there are worldviews and attitudes regarding caste, gender, religion, nation, etc which are highlighted. In this manner, textbooks become a cultural repository of select writings and worldviews.
Based on the analysis of elementary school language textbooks, this chapter shows, that the selection of content in Hindi textbooks is informed by a desire to strengthen children’s allegiance to a given understanding of citizenship and the nation which is centred around Brahminical Hindu ethos. Hence the textbooks passages portray romanticised notions of the past. It perpetuates the hierarchical social structures and makes the marginalised communities invisible. It fails to recognise the everyday discriminatory practices based on caste and gender biases, which find legitimacy within Brahminical Hinduism.
Dalits (15%) and Adivasis (21%) together form 36% of Madhya Pradesh’s population. Their cultures and practices are made invisible in the textbook.  It is only in recent decades that Dalit and Adivasi children have had access to schooling. Through the Hindi textbooks, these first-generation learners are encultured into a worldview which marginalises them. Textbooks are identified as the site of cultural capital. In the pursuit of social mobility through schooling, children have to contest with the cultural capital.

Michael Rösser presents a working paper on 'The Forgotten Population Groups'

Various colonial protagonists have been involved in the building process of the central railway in German East Africa. Historiography has almost exclusively focused on the role of the colonial administration, however. With the African workforce having been regarded as only one factor to accomplish the building tasks (their agency has been generally ignored), other protagonists involved in the building process have hardly been studied. Examining colonial newspaper articles, this paper attempts to narrow down the focus on the role of two neglected colonial protagonists: labour recruiters and Indian indentured labourers in German East Africa. Especially labour recruiters were of crucial importance to deliver the workforce necessary for the infrastructural project. Comprising mostly of Southern European (esp. Greek) migrants, who deliberately went to the German colony to seek employment at the railway construction site. They were responsible for the construction of individual route sections and were also in charge of recruiting and supervising the (African) workforce necessary.
Indian indentures labour was decisive in various British domains, e.g for the construction of the Uganda Railway in neighbouring British East Africa. In contrast to claims of established studies on German colonialism, the sources consulted here suggest that  Indian labour was important for the German East African central railway as well. Indian labour migration to the German colony took place in two major ways. It was first of all an overseas business, meaning that potential workers travelled from India to East Africa. Secondly, it was also an intercolonial event, as Indian railway workers apparently left their employment in British East Africa in order to work in the German colony. 
These various labour experiences shaped specific Indian discourses about their own identity within colonial society. Their mindset and agency is illustrated by a poem published in the newspaper The Indian Voice of East Africa, Uganda and Zanzibar.

Emmanuelle de Champs gives a working paper on 'Greatest or Public Happiness ? Condorcet and Bentham on interest, representation and the public good.'

Bentham and Condorcet are two prominent figures in European history. Both born in the 1740s, they each played a major part in national politics, Condorcet among the statesmen of the French revolution and Bentham as a radical campaigner for parliamentary reform in the decade preceding the Reform Bill in England. Unlike many others eighteenth-century philosophers, who were either dead or too much connected to Ancien-Régime aristocracy, Bentham and Condorcet provide rare examples of established Enlightenment thinkers who embraced revolutionary ideas and who became, with time, increasingly radical.
Built around the vocabulary of “happiness” in the early thought of the two authors, this study attempts to map out the points where they converge and those on which they do not, attempting to locate their distinct positions in broader contemporary debates. First, it compares their respective positions on happiness to that of Claude-Adrien Helvétius, who in many respects provided the framework for the political and moral discussion of happiness in politics in the second half of the eighteenth century. Secondly, it examines the positions of Bentham and Condorcet on a series of political issues directly related to public happiness in the early years of the French Revolution, that is to say up until the end of 1791. After that, the paths of the two philosophers regarding the political situation in France sharply diverged. While Bentham’s interest in French events was on the wane, Condorcet became a member of the  club des jacobins and later a  prominent girondin. As the conclusion points out, the debate over the means of reaching happiness in politics cannot be limited to one which pits utility against rights or the well-being of the community against
that of the individual.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Urs Lindner presents a working paper on 'The Egalitarian Character of Affirmative Action. On its Desirability and Viability'

Which is the positive vision of a better society that is at stake in affirmative action policies? What kind of equality do these policies policies strive to achieve? The paper aims to answer these questions in four steps. First, it is argued that the normative conflict about affirmative action is basically one between formal and substantial equality. In the following chapters, three kinds of substantial equality are discussed: equal opportunity, distributive equality and relational equality. It is shown that equal opportunity and distributive equality run into problems both as regards the desirability and the viability of affirmative action and that only relational equality can provide a normatively and pragmatically adequate framework for this policy.

Juhi Tyagi is going to present a working paper on 'Radical peasant movements and the trajectory of capital: a comparison of cotton production in Warangal and Sabarkantha, India'

This paper attempts to answer the question of what, if anything, have radical social movements achieved for the poorest. Like most peasants in the Global South, those supported by radical movements nevertheless landed in the throes of capitalism, increasingly becoming immiserated wage labour.

Using the case of two provinces in India that had the presence and absence of a radical movement respectively, I undertake an examination of how radical social movements might shape the trajectory of the state and capital, and in turn, impact the conditions of labour.
Although both economies under consideration, I argue, transitioned to capitalist practices, in movement absent areas —  small and marginal farmers lacking a worker’s organization —  remained stuck in previous exploitative relations of production. In such areas, any break in labour conditions came only from random opportunities that arose in the local economy. In movement present areas, I find, although new relations of exploitation replaced old ones, an organizational structure of protest that had provided land and wage gains for the peasant class in the past, led to creating further contradictions between labour and the capitalists. This resulted in renewed protest cycles and an advancement in wage opportunities for the peasant masses. I conclude with what I see as the impact of armed social movements in the global south in creating ‘economies of struggle,’ where collective action organizing pays off in terms of improving peoples’ livelihoods and more significantly, in creating a protest infrastructure that can and does become deployed more willingly in labour-capital struggles.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Rimi Tadu presents a working paper on 'Understanding the State making process in the Eastern Himalayas'

This study is based on my doctoral research study on the local history of an event called Kure Chambyo, where a large group of Tanii men of Arunachal Pradesh had led an attack on the Indian military outpost called Kure near the Tanii homeland. What is interesting to note about the event is that not only in official government records the narratives of the event is almost non-existent, even the locals have never commemorated the event. While the post-Kure Chambyo occupation and oppression carried out by the Indian administrators in the Tanii valley still remain as painful memories among the elderly members of the community, the younger generations are hardly aware of the event. This event was never commemorated or retold. When I discussed with people, it is not seen as a proud memory but as a moment of ‘foolish and barbaric’ act by older and traditional Taniis. Some spoke about the event as if it questioned their sense of patriotism towards India.
This project aims to critically engage with the state formation processes in Arunachal Pradesh during the early period (1950s-1980s) For various reasons such as its geo-political location of this state, it is placed as a critical region for India. As a result it carried out a highly controlled national integration policy which has completely transformed the diverse ethnic communities from autonomous and state-less communities to a state citizen. And this happened in a very short span of time. Through a complex political and social processes, the region was integrated with India, and its people socialized to state system despite their autonomous past. However, what follows along with such state socialization is the sense and consciousness towards power and authority in one hand and the realization of powerlessness and subordination by people who are dominated and controlled.
In this working paper I am trying to problematize this national integration policy carried out in Arunachal Pradesh. While national integration on itself might not be a problem but the way it was carried out by a powerful state over a community whose consent was never taken to begin with. Raising these questions are important for the critical history of each of these communities and for the reality of nation-state of India, and for understanding the nature of the state. In this paper I have not answered any of the questions but just earmarked them and pointed out how they might look like.

Emiliano Rubens Urciuoli gives a working paper on 'Unoffered Pain. Sacrifice and Martyrdom: An Uneasy Companionship'

This paper is on religion but not the city. Based on a 2017 conference talk I am now reworking for publication (the volume will be edited by the organizers of the conference, Jennifer Otto and Katharina Waldner), its genesis predates the series of intellectual, financial, and organizational events that have resulted in my personal ‘axial age’ called ‘Urban Religion’. Actually, the core of this piece dates back even before Otto’s and Waldner’s workshop, since it was drafted in between my first research stay (2013) and my first research contract (2015) in Erfurt. Over these four years, the shape of the text has significantly changed and some of the people attending this colloquium have played a role in this metamorphosis – without being accountable for its shortcomings.
The structure of the text reverses the actual chronology of the incorporated materials. In 2014, I was invited to a cross-disciplinary workshop in Lausanne whose title was ‘Martyres et sacrifices. Atelier comparatiste d’histoire des religions’. The presentation text featured a definition of martyrdom aiming at providing the participants with a common framework. It read as follows : ‘le martyr est celui qui se sacrifie volontairement pour une cause supérieure, parfois en entraînant d’autres personnes avec lui dans la mort’. My idea was to question these definitional guidelines by tackling the problem of the conceptual-discursive blending between martyrdom and sacrifice and sketching an archeology of this connection in the early Christian literature. The long second section of today’s paper reworks and expands this issue. It aims to show how uneasy, unstable, and situational the textual beginnings of this relationship appear to be and seeks to explain this find – a find that flies in the face of many scholars’ assumptions and perhaps some readers’ expectations.
The first part of the paper is far more recent. It is a theoretical reflection building on cognitive studies of religion and stimulated by Otto’s and Waldner’s emphasis on violence as one of the three main axes of their 2017 workshop (the other two are ‘Trauma’ and ‘Identity’). Comprising deep-rooted, panhuman mechanisms to encode and react to experiences of violence, the cognitive substratum is the first of the three intertwined dimensions I look at in order to dig out the nexus between sacrifice and martyrdom. I call the other two layers ‘socio-symbolic’ and ‘discursive-conceptual’ dimension. Only the latter will be thoroughly examined in the paper. Yet now that I am thinking backwards in order to write this introduction I clearly realize how and to what extent all the three dimensions actually bespeak of violence, namely: 1) the deep-historical, universal experience of physical violence that has long triggered and stabilized ways to encode knowledge and memories about context-depending ‘things’ like sacrifice and martyrdom; 2) the material and symbolic violence of an ancient social system comprising social technologies of reciprocity that imposed restrictions to the manners of thinking and talking about sacrifice and martyrdom; 3) the hermeneutical violence of a religious tradition that has long endorsed the conceptual-discursive blending between sacrifice and martyrdom, channeled it through the centuries, upgraded it to commonsense, and now is inviting us to read this ‘winning’ paradigm back into the earliest extant texts.
This paper is also looking forward. Right from the start, it attempts to smuggle the ‘Urban Religion program’ into its subject by saying that ancient Christian martyrdom is ‘a full-blown urban religious practice’. This sentence opens a small window onto the role martyrdom is going to play in my ongoing research.