Thinking this month!

Arun Gupto

April, 2019

Our research this month:

We are working on a documentary “Four Gray Walls and Four Gray Towers.” It is a three episode film on the Kathmandu Valley.  My guest is Prof. Abhi Subedi.  The major focus of the visual narrative is aesthetics in relation to the notables like nostalgia, narrative situation, and singular situation along with the familiar technical elements like order, harmony, balance, proportion, and scale.

The documentary team consists of Salil Subedi (Editor-Director) and Renuka Khatiwada (videographer-researcher). Nepal Studies team of researchers are collaborating with their works. I have conceptualized the visual project and written the script. Professors Manzoorul Islam and Kaiser Haq are also the guests in the film.

Prof. Subedi and I talked about aesthetics and nostalgia last week in Bhaktapur.  You would be able to see how he not only conceptualized nostalgia but also talked to me about nostalgia as a poetic trope.  Furthermore, his favorite city animal is the bull.  This week, if the weather permits, we will discuss what the sublime beast does to the city as a mythical being.  How does myth function as an organizing principle?

The documentary is assisted by a parallel visual cultural research on goddesses in the city (an illustrated book series which I am working with Renuka as a photographer).  This will be my second book on the Goddesses series.

With Shanker Paudel, we are going to Chitwan to collect materials on environmental historiography. He is accompanying me to Delhi this month where he will present his ideas. The event is organized by University of Chicago (Delhi center).

All such research works are related with Rethinking/Comparative South Asian Studies program.  We are engaged in multiple research programs like Nepal-Bangladesh Studies, Urban studies and the arts.  The forthcoming Digital Humanities (DH) event in June is about archiving which will help us handle and deal with the resources. The DH workshop will be conducted by Prof. Laura Gonzales and her doctoral student Bibhushana Poudyal from University of Texas El Paso. Bibhushana will be talking about critical DH in relation to Nepal and South Asia.

Prof. Sangita Rayamajhi is our Director of research who is working on Asian Studies in general and Gender and Sexuality in South Asia in particular.

You can post me questions if you want to suggest and know more about our research.


Arun Gupto

February, 2019

Along with Comparativism and Cultural Studies, I am also going to talk about two of the key ideas by Gayatri Spivak and Homi Bhabha which are appropriate for my presentation.

Homi Bhabha suggests that the model where cultural diversity and differences count, gives rise “to liberal notions of multiculturalism, cultural exchange or the culture of humanity” (Location of Culture 34) . . .Bhabha differentiates:

Cultural diversity is about culture as an object of knowledge. For instance, we say that it is given that there is cultural diversity in the US. Cultural difference is the process which tells us how political processes force toward differentiation and discrimination or harmony and celebration. My questions are:

  • Do you think that cultural diversity is the foundation for cultural difference or vice versa? How do they function in the US, Nepal, Pakistan, and/or India?
  • How do we include and exclude class, caste, gender in the context of cultural diversity and difference?

Spivak’s “Can the Subaltern Speak?” can be appropriated to discuss the second question?

Who speaks and how his or her speech is included in social mobility, in broader national discourse? If her speech is not, she is a subaltern despite speaking philosophically, critically.  Thousands years of history of victim construction in South Asia has not assimilated such voices. The speech act, communication between addresser and addressee, is not complete. My further questions are:

  • Thus how are we socially produced, organized, and maintained in relation to power, sexuality, class, gender, and silences?
  • What is the nature of our suspicion, anger, anxiety, uncertainty, disgust toward minority, women, and marginalized in South Asia and how does literature reflect such attitudes and beliefs?

Such issues and questions can be discussed in a wider disciplinary context of comparativism.

Comparative Cultural studiesis a multicultural and interdisciplinary modality, it is an intercultural dialogue by using methodologies from various disciplines like sociology, political science, gender studies, economics, etc.  Comparativism is also teleopoiesis, a distant comparativism, “To affect the distant in a poiesis – an imaginative making . . .” (Spivak: Death of a Discipline 34), a care for language and idiom of a distance.

Finally, how do we “intend towards the other in the classrooms?” (Spivak) Thus reading the double bind of not knowing the other and yet working with friendship and hospitality?

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