Intellectual Traditions of the Northeast: Its Influences and Impact
Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla
in collaboration with
English and Foreign Languages University at Shillong
(20-21 February 2016)
Following S. N. Balgangadhara(To Follow our Forefathers: The Nature of Tradition, 2011) one can define ‘tradition’ as “inherited practices” that are internalized through a variety of mechanisms likelanguage, imitation, instruction, repeated performances, and so on. This brings forth the fact that given the plurality of the mechanisms available for internalization necessary for the continuation of ‘tradition’ itself, one cannot treat ‘tradition’ as a term that denotes a singular ‘monolithic whole’. Traditions need not necessarily have a singular trait that is common to them. Rather appropriating Wittgenstein, one could argue that what traditions share is a mere ‘family resemblance’.
Further, the characterization of ‘tradition’ as ‘inherited’ does not entail that traditions are inert and passive. Rather this ‘inheritance’ occurs through a reflective process and thus one cannot conceive of ‘tradition’ through a lens of historical linearity. It is this ‘reflective aspect’, both ‘inward’ as well ‘outward’, that we seek to capture through the term ‘Intellectual’.
Thus, for the purpose of this seminar, we take the notion of ‘tradition’ as non-monolithic and non-linear,thereby positioning it away from the historicist arguments.By doing so, we seek to highlight the genealogical linkages that have emerged, and that characterize, the interactions between the various intellectual traditions in the North-east. These linkages, both of confluence and differentiation, are what mark the vibrancy of the various intellectual traditions flourishing here.
In terms of the interactions between the Intellectual traditions of India, what remains relatively less highlighted in the dominant discourse within the academia, are the confluences and differentiations that have emerged in the conversation between the ‘great’ traditions and the ‘little’ traditions that have flourished largely in the periphery of the main-land. These‘indigenous’ or ‘little’ traditions have their unique signatures and their diverse contributions have made the mainstream what it is. There is a two-way flow; one that marks the drawing from the mainstream by the ‘little’ traditions, and the other that marks the reverse process where the unique and differentiated cultural forms (‘little’ traditions) have become reflective of the great tradition. This whole process in the Indian context has made pluri-cultural formations possible.
For instance, the Brahmaputra stream which is one of the representatives of the traditions of the North-east is complex and its intellectual knowledge domains are part of, and reflect upon, the mainstream culture in their local adaptation and the rest remain indigenous in their formation. Likewise, some of the traditions of Assam and Manipur are clearly a part of the pan-Indian Bhakti movement (eknamsaran of Sankardev’s Vaishnavism in Assam and Vaishnavism in Manipur). Further, Assam is clearly a part of tantric Buddhism along with its own homegrown Tantra culture.Arunachal has been an ancient seat of Buddhism apart from its own ‘animistic’ traditions.The seminar seeks to highlight these aspects of interactions and the ensuing redefining of the boundaries of the engaging traditions.
Further, the Seminar also would seek to explore and understand the influences of various other ‘reformatory movements’ upon these ‘little’ traditions of the North-east. For Instance, how did the Ramkrishna and Vivekananda Missions, which are the oldest educational missions in the states of Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh influence the contours of the thriving traditions there?Or how did Christianity, which came with the advent of colonialism in most of the states of North-east, reshapes these traditions?
In view of the links the present seminar intends to have an in depth and inclusive deliberation on Indian intellectual traditions with reference to the Northeast. The seminar will have the following sub-themes:
A limited number of participants will be invited for the seminar. Those interested in participating should send an abstract (500-700 words) on any one of above mentioned proposed topic to following Email ID's:
A limited number of participants will be invited for the Seminar at EFLU Centre, Shillong. Those interested in participating should send title and a synopsis (500-700 words) of the proposed paper along with their C.V. to:-
The last date of submission of title/synopsis of paper alongwith abstract is 15 December 2015. Invitation letters to all participants will be sent by 31 December 2015. It is the policy of the Institute to publish the proceedings of the seminars it organizes. Therefore, all invited participants will be expected to submit complete papers to the Academic Resource Officer, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla – 171005 by 12 February 2015. IIAS, Shimla and EFLU Shillong will be glad to extend you their hospitality during the Seminar period and is willing to reimburse, if required, your rail or air travel expense from your place of current residence in India, or your port of arrival in India, and back
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