Culture and Democracy

GB Pant Social Science Institute, Jhusi, Allahabad is organizing a two-day Interdisciplinary National Seminar around the theme ‘Culture and Democracy’ at Jaisalmer (Rajasthan) on November 25 and 26, 2011.   This discourse will be an attempt to analyse the cultural resources of marginalized communities that helped in their democratization and in the emergence of a subaltern public sphere.  Additionally it will also analyse what creative influences these marginalised cultures had in our contemporary society.

Despite the prevalence of deeply entrenched social norms and institutional frameworks that sustain social exclusion in almost parts of our country, dissent against social exclusion has always existed in society even though it seldom took the form of an organized protest. Evidence of this dissent can be found in the oral culture and traditions of many marginalized communities of the country. This culture of marginalised communities provides them a dignified space, which empowers them and helps them in the making of a subversive socio-political consciousness in their everyday life-culture. Further, this culture contributes in the evolution of their contemporary political language and defiant culture.

When we analyse the interrelation of culture and marginalised community, we find that most of the time mainstream culture excludes marginalized sections of the society. Our traditional discourse claims Brahminical/ elite resources as the only culture and forgets to focus on marginal culture which has a huge reservoir of cultural traditions within it. But culture should not be confined to the Brahminical code only as there exist simultaneously multiple cultures in our society which implanted the seeds of democratic consciousness within the oppressed lower castes. The recently emerged trends of our contemporary cultural discourse view marginal culture as not merely a significant social phenomenon but also as an important tool that influences the forms of socio-cultural dynamics, which in turn play a significant role in the democratic and societal development.

Through this seminar we will try to understand the meaning of culture for marginalized communities and their cultural politics. The seminar will try to bring out how culture can be a medium of inclusion and how through the culture they mediate and negotiate with dominant sections for gaining respectability.

Alongside we will investigate how the democratic consciousness of marginalized communities, visible in the contemporary period, is being used by them for strengthening their struggle against social inequality and their socio-political and cultural exclusion. This democratic consciousness also forms the basis of their political empowerment, which is also being shaped by the cultural resources generated by them. There would be an in-depth discussion on the process of inclusion of this excluded group through their own oral tradition and folk culture which provides a channel for inclusion in mainstream cultural life where they can share, communicate their pain, dissent.

We will also explore the role of marginal cultures in generating a knowledge-base that helped in the emergence of the subaltern public sphere, in the socio-political mobilization of marginalized communities, in shaping their vision, and above all, in stimulating the process of their participation in the democratic processes of the country. We will also analyse the role of marginal culture in the struggle of the marginalized sections against the hegemonic cultural domination by the upper castes which they have been facing since time immemorial and which is still prevalent in many parts of north India.  In addition during the discourse we will unearth the many cultural metaphors in the cultural narratives of the marginalized communities of north India.

The discourse will be carried out around the following themes:

  • Culture and Democracy
  • Culture: Exclusion and Inclusion
  • Culture and Subalterns
  • Performance and Politics

Scholars from diverse fields will be invited to participate in the discourse. In addition to deliberations and presentation of papers a round table/ expert discussion will be also organized where the scholars can express their opinions on various issues around the topic of the discourse. Apart from the scholars contemporary poets and folk singers would also be invited who would showcase how the consciousnesses of resistance are inculcated in marginal cultures and continue to influence the mindscapes of contemporary poets/ performers.

Venue of the Conference:

The city of Jaisalmer is the appropriate place for this discourse as this is a cultural hub in the state of Rajasthan and regularly showcases the vivid cultural aspects of the state. Performers from Langa and Mangiar tribes and local Sufi singers who will present their cultural resources will be main attraction of our programme. Our aim is not to invite them to perform in our Institute or in metropolitan locations but to organize a two-way discourse in their own habitat. During the discourse the folk performers who lead obscure lives often in penury on the margins of the society would also be able to meet prominent academicians/litterateurs/ performers from other parts of the country and interact with them . This interaction would be mutually beneficial as it would empower the folk actors and also sensitize the literary and culturally minded people living in urban areas participating in the discourse, regarding the culture of marginalized communities. As an interventional aspect of the discourse we intend to sensitize the mainstream about the plight of these obscure folk performers belonging to marginalised communities through newspaper articles and articles in journals.