Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Auroville Foundation purchased 7.40 acres while 5.91 acres were secured by way of land exchange

Thoorigai Written by Miriam Tuesday, 17 November 2009
On Saturday the 14th of November in Gallery Square Circle at Kala Kendra an exhibition of Tamil artist Anbazhagan was inaugurated. The event started with a short performance by Mohanam Sound Crew. Thoorigai is the title of the artist's opus focused on his own symbolic world and life. In English the word means something like “Journey Toward Colorful Soil”, and on beautiful, mostly oil on canvas paintings, we can clearly see India in its rich textures. From the soil to the fine ornaments of daily life, from people in their motions to vast symbolism. Interview with Anbazhagan is in Tamil. To download the magazine clich here

A Guest Shares Her Experience Written by Radio Team Monday, 16 November 2009
Today's news features an interview with a guest from Belgium, who shares her impressions, what she has experienced and what she feels. Also there's a notice from the newly formed Entry Service which has been processing a great number of pending Newcomer requests since its re-opening two weeks ago. Plus news of an Auroville International Meeting which will take place in Bhubaneswar, Orissa 1st to the 6th of February 2010. To download the news cick here.

Resources & education Written by Radio Team Monday, 16 November 2009
On 19 September Vikram, Martin and Harini presented the results of a socio-economic survey conducted over the last year. The focus on this survey was mainly on youth of Auroville and on commercial activities. Part of the research also centered on the expectations of young Aurovilians residing in the city and the capital need to implement projects in order to create new job opportunities. The important role of education and to achieve higher standards was one of the results of this research. In the second part, an interaction between the researchers and the audience made this presentation rich in answers as well as in unanswered questions.Can a survey made on 12% of the commercial units give a precise figure of Auroville's actual economy? That may or may not be the case, but the value remains as an important research completed. To download the presentation click here for the part one, here fort the part two.

Land Annual Report Written by Radio Team Sunday, 15 November 2009
During the period under review, Auroville Foundation purchased 7.40 acres in the planned township area while 5.91 acres were secured by way of land exchange with the unutilized land outside the planned township area. Of the total 13.31 acres that were secured during the year, 11.86 were in the Green Belt and 1.45 in the City Area of Auroville. An amount of Rs. 46,72,695 was received by way of offerings and donations from friends and well-wishers of Auroville as well as from guests and residents of Auroville. Cick here to downaload the full report as pdf.

Harmony, peace and unity Written by Miriam Saturday, 14 November 2009
Second meeting of Asian Unity was held at Pitanga, and as East Asian traditions are, it started with excellent tea, and quiet conversation of arriving guests. From the first meeting in September things started to move for Asian community, and many plans are in the progress. On 17,5 acers of land in Iternational zone proposed for Asia, idea came up to sart to build at least small Tea pavillion with which they could establish Asian zone, and could been used as a place for meeting, for meditation and tea ceremonies. In Asian culture tea ceremony is important part of the culture, it's related to art in general; important part of it is spritual passage without religious projections. To download this program click here.

Rainwater, Lake Water Written by Marlenka Friday, 13 November 2009
Today's news presents first a few words from Sauro of l'Avenir on water: the proposed water body on the grounds of Matrimandir. And an announcement from Auroville's Youth Centre, also known as Peaceful City, which is in the planning stage of holding a youth event in Auroville this coming March 2010. Anima Mundi (Latin for cosmic breath, the world soul, the life force, the spirit of nature) is the name of the Auroville World Youth Event. To downlod the news click here

A vision for Universal Design Written by Rose Thursday, 12 November 2009
The first and second day of a three-day workshop focusing on Universal Design, the emerging global trend which aims to create environments with greater access for people with special needs. Topics for discussion include the different challenges faced by those with disabilities in Auroville today, and how existing designs should be adapted to make our surroundings more user-friendly. Also on the agenda are Professional Access Audits, which judge the accessibility of existing structures. Introduction with music, followed by a Q&A session. Hosted in association with the National Centre for Accessible Environments, New Delhi. o download the day one click here.To download the day two click here.

Land, Housing in the Monsoon Written by Marlenka Friday, 06 November 2009
Today's news includes several topics: the housing situation still in crisis mode, lands required to fill in the existing city-in-the-making not yet acquired, interfacing happening with PondyCan (Pondicherry Citizens Action Network) to find solutions to the rapid erosion of the beach at Quiet and, a joint offering by the University of Human Unity and the educational program 'Living Routes―Auroville' offering an Integral Sustainability Seminar Series on various sustainable practices in Auroville, with the topic Nutrition: organic farming, agricultural activities, Foodlink, Holistic Food Systems and Raw Food Philosophy on offer this week. To download the news click here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Racialism was compatible with the ideologies and policies of imperial liberalism

Medicine, Race and Liberalism in British Bengal Symptoms of Empire
By Ishita Pande

This book focuses on the entwinement of politics and medicine and power and knowledge in India during the age of empire. Using the powerful metaphor of ‘pathology’ - the science of the origin, nature, and course of diseases - the author develops and challenges a burgeoning literature on colonial medicine, moving beyond discussions of state medicine and the control of epidemics to everyday life, to show how medicine was a fundamental ideology of empire.

Related to this point, and engaging with postcolonial histories of biopower and modernity, the book highlights the use of this racially grounded medicine in the formulation of modern selves and subjectivities in late colonial India. In tracing the cultural determinants of biological race theory and contextualizing the understanding of race as pathology, the book demonstrates how racialism was compatible with the ideologies and policies of imperial liberalism.

Medicine, Race and Liberalism in British Bengal brings together the study of modern South Asia, race theory, colonialism and empire and the history of medicine. It highlights the powerful role played by the idea of ‘pathology’ in the rationalization of imperial liberalism and the subsequent projects of modernity embraced by native experts in Bengal in the ‘long’ nineteenth century. ISBN: 9780415778152 Published November 09 2009 by Routledge.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Excavation of hidden sources to understand the complex history of both human personality and culture

Anthropology, the aspiration to place knowledge of humanity as a whole on a rigorous footing, has been through three phases corresponding roughly to the last three centuries. In each case its object and method reflected the movement of world history when seen from a European perspective. Anthropology grew out of the critique of the old regime of agrarian civilisation as part of a search for the universal foundations of democratic society.
Locke, Rousseau and Kant wished to found the social contract on human nature and to that end their method was philosophical reasoning, supported by the best information available on the uncivilised peoples of North America and the South Seas. Indeed Kant was the first to use the word “anthropology” in anything like its modern sense; but you will not find references made to that in today’s courses on the history of social anthropology.
The 19th century put the spirit of democratic revolution firmly behind itself and addressed a world brought into being by western imperialism, an imperialism powered by mechanisation. The question Victorians asked was how they were able to conquer the planet with so little effective resistance. They concluded that their culture was superior, being based on reason rather than superstition, and that this superiority was grounded in nature as racial difference. Their perspective on world society was inevitably one of movement, so that the racial hierarchy they found there was understood to be still evolving. The object of 19th century anthropology was thus to explain the origin of the continuing inequality between the races of mankind; its method was evolutionary history based on widespread comparison of examples linked by an assumption of human psychic unity. In other words, they could become like us once they submitted to an appropriate form of government and education by us.
In the 20th century anthropology took the predominant form of ethnography. That is, individual peoples, studied in isolation from their wider context in time and space, were written up by lone ethnographers whose method was prolonged and intensive immersion in their societies. Nowhere was this project pursued more rigorously or exclusively than in the British social anthropology of Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown. By the end of the century, most professionals in social and cultural anthropology around the world pay at least lip service to this ethnographic ideal, although in the other imperial centres (the United States, France, Russia, India etc) the methods employed are more varied. And within Britain the basic model of functionalist ethnography has been undermined from numerous quarters for several decades now. [...]
Rivers went on to compile The History of Melanesian Society in two volumes (1914) which sought to explain cultural variation within the region in part as the result of successive waves of migration. He eventually aligned himself with Eliot-Smith and Perry whose revival of diffusionist world history featured Egypt as the source of a widely distributed cultural complex (an echo of the Lost Tribes of Israel discourse of the previous century). There is no doubt that Rivers and his colleagues generated some pretty wild stuff in reconstructing the history of human movement along lines unconsciously imitating the British imperialism of the day (“navigators in search of precious metals” and so on). And this provided a convenient target for the functionalist ethnographers.
Malinowski published his functionalist manifesto in a series of short pieces which came out between 1922 and 1926: the introduction to Argonauts, two papers in Nature and an encyclopaedia article. It boils down to this. Culture is something people everywhere generate as a vehicle through which they live their everyday lives. It has to work for them on a daily basis and that includes the requirement that the different parts add up to something reasonably coherent. It does not matter where the bits of culture come from; what matters is the integrity of the pattern expressed in everyday life, in the here and now. It is worth recalling that 1922 was the year when audiences everywhere queued up to watch Flaherty’s movie, Nanook of the North. After the slaughter of the trenches, confidence in western civilisation was shaken. The resilience of an Eskimo pitted against nature underscored the message that ways of life we may once have dismissed as primitive had their own legitimacy and might even be a source of inspiration for a West on its knees. [...]
It is paradoxical that British anthropologists often wrote of African peoples as if they lived in bounded, timeless units outside the currents of modern history, on metaphorical islands, as it were, to set against the real historical islands that Haddon and Rivers studied. For the ethnographers of the interwar period were also heavily engaged with the problem of social change (which they called “culture contact”). Without exception they were forced to come to grips with the concrete realities of their colonial field situation, even as they also constructed insular laboratories detached from the movement of 20th century society. It is notable that the principal source of their funding, by Rockefeller, went under the rubric of “Social change in Africa”. Even more than most, these ethnographers had to struggle with the contradictions of doing intellectual work in the modern world. It is convenient, but lazy to typify them as just one thing. They themselves recognised that they were trying to reconcile at least two things — hence the double descent mythology personified by Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown.
If ideology is classically the attempt to derive life from ideas, the British school sought to derive ideas from life, devising a special style of writing in which concrete descriptions of live activities were used to support generalisations whose debt to western intellectual traditions was never made explicit. In the hands of Malinowski this could be a romantic literary exercise, linking individual actors and concrete events to a self-conscious narrative. Radcliffe-Brown’s influence was aimed at professional consolidation, the promulgation of a scientific ethos, objectifications of structure, abstract conceptualisation. The truth is that the functionalist ethnographers had to mediate between contrasting social situations — their own isolation as individual fieldworkers exposed to the lives of exotic peoples and their collective reproduction in an academic milieu as a caste of professional experts. They were pulled in two directions: towards joining the peoples of the world and back into the insularity of academic bureaucracy. [...]
Rivers between anthropology and psychology
William Rivers started out as a physiologist and had already established the first two experimental psychology laboratories in England before joining CAETS to which he contributed both studies of perception and the genealogical method. As a result of his neurological experiments with Head, he developed a two-stage model of nerve regeneration, the protopathic and the epicritic. He elaborated the sociological study of kinship and social structure. Took his ethnological enquiries in the direction of German historicism and beyond, into the wilder regions of global speculation. Became a psychoanalyst who applied Freud’s ideas critically. Served as an army psychiatrist in the war, finding in the treatment of shell-shock victims a new version of social psychology. He ended his life as a socialist politician and friend of progressive literary men. In the last few years before his death, 1917-1922, he appears to have had a personality transplant, the first stages of which are depicted by Pat Barker in Regeneration. Once a conservative member of the academic establishment, a recluse with a stammer, he became the very model of an outgoing public intellectual.
Now there is much more to this fascinating story than can be told here. But I wish only to point to the way Rivers approached the disciplines of psychology and anthropology (in which he included ethnology and sociology). His first preoccupation was to build up several academic specialisms of which he was a practitioner. Indeed he subscribed to the compartmentalisation of knowledge to the extent of serving as president of both the national bodies responsible for supervising professional practice in anthropology and psychology in Britain. He brought to these various enquiries a common methodological outlook which never sacrificed the active engagement of the investigating subject to an objectifying positivism which was taking root in the universities at the time. It is indisputable that he sought to separate the study of society from that of individuals, in much the same way that chemistry was hived off from physics. At this stage he seems to have made little of the fact that he combined these branches of study within himself.
Rivers’s war experiences changed all that. In the last five years of his life he produced some forty pieces of work, of varying quality and length, while maintaining a punishing regime of professional and public commitment. Inevitably he wrote these pieces off the top of his head, relying on whatever was stored in his memory from decades of specialist practice. In the process his method became more autobiographical and self-reflexive; the boundaries between disciplines became blurred in a synthesising drive to comprehend and influence individual experience of society.
In his posthumous book, Conflict and Dream (1923), Rivers recalls one of his own dreams whose preoccupation was with “Hidden Sources”. His initial explanation is that the dream referred to his frustration in not being able to reply to mistaken American critics of his kinship theories, because of overwork as an army psychiatrist. In a practical sense, but possibly more seriously, a conflict existed between psychology and ethnology. But, pushing the analysis further, Rivers concludes that the dream reveals the fundamental harmony between psychoanalysis and ethnology which are based on the same method, the excavation of hidden sources which help us to understand the complex history of both human personality and culture.
Armed with this integrated vision of self and society, Rivers came out of the war ready to change the world, not just to understand it.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects

With the emergence of memes a new replicator enters the world, very different from genes. Memes or cultural ideas, symbols, and practices, are like genes in that they aim to get themselves replicated, however as unique replicators they do not act at the behest of genes. In other words, we now get what could be called a “conflict of the replicators”. Genes can struggle with memes. Memes can struggle with genes. Memes and genes can collaborate with one another. However, like all alliances, a collaboration of memes and genes is a temporary strategy to advance the replication of genes and the replication of the memes that can be dissolved when this relationship no longer advances one or the other. It is even feasible that memes, at some point, could dispense with genes altogether if they find new and more effective ways to replicate themselves, no longer requiring organic bodies like brains to be passed along. This, for example, is what is depicted in films like Terminator or The Matrix where the machines (and machines are memes) have been liberated from human bodies and strive to replicate themselves apart from humans. [...]
In this respect, we can think of memes as strategies for seducing brains. Some memes get themselves replicated by being useful for the organisms that host them. Others get themselves replicated by playing on the architecture of our brains in rhythmic and imagistic terms. Yet others get themselves replicated by playing on our worst characteristics such as envy, hatred, narcissism, and so on. [...]
Generally when we think of meaning we think of it as something that doesn’t have a geography or that isn’t located in time and space. No doubt this error emerges as a result of certain confusions surrounding the iterability of memes giving the illusion that memes aren’t localized in space and time. But insofar as memes must spread, insofar as they must be copied, memes have a geography or a geographical distribution which is, in principle, mappable. Indeed, this is part of what the ethnographer does implicitly when she does field work, investigating the unique practices, technologies, laws, morals, cosmologies, economies, etc., of a particular group of people.

Sociology is the study of one’s own society, anthropology is the study of other cultures

VIEWS FROM AFAR - Lévi-Strauss’s great gift was the gift of imagination
André Béteille The Telegraph > Front Page > Opinion > Tuesday , November 10 , 2009

The passing of Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009) marks the end of an era in the study of human culture. He was in his time the most renowned anthropologist in the world, and perhaps more renowned than any other anthropologist at any time or in any place. But he was much more than that. He was a pioneer of a whole intellectual movement that came to be known as ‘structuralism’, and his thought influenced scholars and writers in many different fields. My sense is that his standing as a man of letters in France will outlive his technical innovations as an anthropologist.
Lévi-Strauss’s first major contribution to anthropology was a work on kinship published originally in 1949. That work, entitled The Elementary Structures of Kinship, took time to secure worldwide attention since an English translation did not appear until twenty years later. To the English-speaking anthropologists who read it in the original, the arguments of the book appeared strange and unfamiliar, and its theoretical claims too sweeping. But it did secure a commanding position in course of time, and came to be much admired even by those who had little knowledge of the literature on kinship.
The Elementary Structures propounded a new approach to the study of kinship that came to be known as ‘alliance theory’ as against the ‘descent theory’ favoured by the British anthropologists who had dominated the field until then. Descent theory focuses on the transmission of rights and obligations across the generations, whereas alliance theory dwells on the chains of relations established by matrimonial exchange between bride-givers and bride-takers. An early proponent of alliance theory in the study of Indian kinship was Louis Dumont, the author of a magisterial work on caste.

Like other anthropologists before him, Lévi-Strauss assigned great significance to the incest rule, but gave a new twist to the interpretation of that rule. He argued that it should not be viewed only negatively, but also positively; not just as a prohibition, but, above all, as a prescription. A man is not told simply that he must not marry his own sister, he is asked to give his sister in marriage to another man and, in turn, to receive someone else’s sister as his wife. In his own words, “the prohibition of incest is a rule of reciprocity”. Exchange and reciprocity, which constitute the core of social life, follow directly from the incest rule, hence its great social significance. Lévi-Strauss would go so far as to say that it was that rule that provided the first foundation of social life among human beings.
Lévi-Strauss’s great gift was the gift of imagination, and he was a master of the art of interpreting symbols. As such, his best work was not his work on kinship, but his work on mythology. It was through a series of studies of the myths of primitive people that he gave free rein to his talent for demonstrating unsuspected, not to say startling, connections among symbols, and established his position as a structuralist. He was a rationalist who took a lofty, not to say disdainful, view of the empiricist bias in most of Anglo-American anthropology. If such a distinction is permissible, he always chose ideas over facts, and symbolic, as against utilitarian, interpretations.
Shortly before he launched on his massive enterprise on the study of myths, he published a brief study of totemism, which had been a favourite subject among anthropologists since the end of the 19th century. Earlier anthropologists, particularly in Britain, had been inclined to argue that among primitive people totemism fulfilled the function of ensuring the maintenance and reproduction of plant and animal species. Lévi-Strauss insisted that its primary significance was to provide symbolic markers for the differentiation of human groups through the differentiation of the natural world.

Lévi-Strauss saw himself not just as a rationalist but also as an explorer in far-away places among little-known people. Not long after his work on kinship, he published a book called Tristes tropiques in French and A World on the Wane in English. It is a fascinating and tantalizing book, part travelogue, part ethnography and part philosophical speculation. Because that book was translated into English before the book on kinship, and because of its richly evocative literary style, it received more attention than The Elementary Structures of Kinship. Lévi-Strauss’s many admirers in India should know that he has not always been well served by his English translators.
If his studies of kinship and myth bring out the rationalist in Lévi-Strauss, Tristes tropiques brings out the romantic in him. In it, he gives us glimpses into the lives of some of the forest-dwelling communities of the Amazon basin: the Bororo, the Caduveo, the Nambikwara and others. Their technological equipment might not be much to boast of, but their tattoos, their folk tales and their mythology show a richness and variety that is almost inexhaustible. Lévi-Strauss has done more than any other anthropologist to show that the poverty of material technology need not be an impediment to the proliferation of an exuberant symbolic life.
The standard method of fieldwork established by Malinowski and his followers came to be known as the method of ‘participant-observation’. It is respected, though not always faithfully followed, by anthropologist in most countries, including India. Lévi-Strauss has insisted on the maintenance of distance between the observer and the observed as an essential part of the work of the anthropologist. There is little place in this scheme of things for the anthropologist to go native. Perhaps this was his way of showing respect for the communities about which he wrote. On the other hand, the British anthropologists of his generation whom I knew, such as Meyer Fortes and Max Gluckman, had little praise for the quality and reliability of his empirical material.

The relationship between anthropology and sociology has been a subject of debate and discussion among students of society and culture throughout the world, and particularly in India. Few scholars have expressed themselves more clearly and consistently on the subject than Lévi-Strauss. For him, sociology is the study of one’s own society, in his case French (or European) society, whereas anthropology is the study of other cultures. As he sees it, what is distinctive of anthropology as a discipline is not any peculiarity of the communities it studies but the relationship of the investigator to the object of his investigation. In his own striking words, “The anthropologist is the astronomer of the social sciences.”
The natural tendency among students of society and culture in India has been to stress not the separation between sociology and anthropology, but their unity. This is as true of G.S. Ghurye as of M.N. Srinivas or S.C. Dube. N.K. Bose began his career by studying a small tribe of shifting cultivators in Orissa, and later made a masterful study of the social structure of his own city, Calcutta. For him, the unity of sociology and social anthropology followed directly from the belief in the unity of India. This presents a paradox to the Indian followers of Lévi-Strauss who have sometimes adopted the subterfuge of being sociologists at home and anthropologists abroad, where the study of Indian society, no matter by whom, is a part of anthropology, not sociology. The author is Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, and National Research Professor