All entries for Wednesday 26 October 2005

October 26, 2005

Cultural Diversity

That there is tremendous cultural diversity in the University of Warwick is not in doubt. It was in full display last evening at the IDLHR party that had probably the most amazing variety of food that could be cooked up by about 30 people. The ones that I can name first: rajma chaval, puri bhaaji, prawn curry, houmus and pitta bread, haleem, chinese fried rice, fried chicken wings among others. i cant name the other food, tho am quite certain that I did try to learn them then!

There is just so much to learn from so many different perspectives and so many different view points that it is just a fascinating journey. I wish I had more time to engage with the stories that are carried by people. The diversity of their experiences outside of the formal structures and the busy routines within a classroom!!

But, its also such a challenge to move outside your comfort zones. To actually engage (or at least engage) with people different from yourself. With not just different nationalities and cultures but often with little or no understanding of your own. Its often quite a challenge to explain things to people who know a little bit about your culture in a broad sense. Often, what is portrayed by the media.

Sometimes, identities fashioned by the work of just over fifty years including the idea of India. That a nation with such a plurality of systems, customs, traditions, languages etc can actually exist as one administrative unit (as is the case for the last fifty odd years).

However, that brings me to the ´popisation´ of culture and the idea of culture that is identified by certain symbols. Is that really a culture? Or is it just a construct that is developed for various reasons including as a pressure against the forces of globalisation. The idea of the Indian for example itself is a recent invention… not more than one hundred years (if you look at the freedom struggle as the first time a pan-Indian identity was charted out). Within that identity lie many different layers and differences that gradually get subsumed by the pan-Indianness and also re-emerge in various other forms. Getting to grips with it is probably the most difficult part of being an Indian! Add to it the assault of globalisation and you have a complete ´avial´ of cultures that are created.

Watch this space!


Follow-up to Handling Empire from Jacob's blog

The big comment yesterday was the relevance (or the lack of it) of the national. Is the State symbolic or is it significant? Do the powers of globalisation rely on the State for its functioning through hierachies and networks like local government, local authorities, police, provincial governments and national governments?

At the surface, there seems to be this unholy alliance that exists between the State, various actors within it and the forces of globalisation. This then creates situations where some people are more equal than others and a small but influential minority control and monopolise decisions. This is done through a variety of ways including the logic of economics (let the market decide), activism (through the co-option of various NGOs), civil society (I dont know what that is too well) and various other forces.

The interesting thing about this alliance is that it embraces the ideas of apolitical decision making as well as use some idea of fairness and justice in the propogation of its ideas. Standards, methodology, process, indicators etc etc all become crucial in this world of depoliticised decision making. All of us have heard of the reputation that statisticians have and the phrases that are used for them. However, this is precisely the kind of people that we turn to in order to solve our problems in this new age where being ´unbiased´ and being seen as unbiased are crucial.

Little else on Empire right now. More as the mind clears up

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