Tillie Olsen, “Silences in Literature,” Silences (NY: Delacorte, 1978), 20.

Introduction

The hallmark of the contemporary period of globalization is the spread of new ideas and large amounts of money:  it is, in more general terms, about the diffusion of culture and capital. In this world, the United States is regarded as the paradigmatic case of a nation defining both culture and capital.  Easily forgotten is that India, the world's largest democracy and fourth largest economy in PPP, has joined the US as a nation with global reach in both culture and economics.

India's cultural capital is on display virtually everywhere.  From Nobel Prizes in economics to Pulitzers in fiction, from a film industry that has captured the hearts of millions to a vast knowledge industry that produces the technology and content of transnational firms, India's cultural capital is produced globally, speaks multilingually, and is consumed visibly in just about every corner of the post-industrial world.

India's economic capital is also increasingly evident. In 2003, economists at Goldman Sachs presented a much quoted paper, "Dreaming with BRICs," which argued that by 2050, the economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRICs) would eclipse the US and Japan in wealth generation and produce 40% of the world's GDP. By 2025, according to the report, BRICs could account for over half the size of the G6.  If the economic predictions reach target, the world's largest democracy will also soon become one of its largest economies, an accomplishment enabled by longstanding institutions of open society, public higher education, and a multilingual labor force equally adept in English and in HTML.   

How has a country that was an abject colonial economy less than 60 years ago achieved its current global muscle?  How might we renew an understanding of India's development from its five-thousand year history to its recent interventions in the world stage?  And, perhaps most importantly, what role do India's "products"—such as film, literature, music, architecture, philosophy, religion, but also business, science, and politics—play in fabricating the country's new global presence?  Has India really changed from a nation of bullock carts, or have its purveyors masterfully refashioned its perception on the global stage? 

This forum explores the relationship between culture and capital in fashioning the new India. 

Design

The New India Forum explores the mechanisms by which the idea of "India" is produced and reproduced in the realm of what is broadly conveyed by the term "culture."  Incorporating both the lived practices of subalterns and the textual artifacts of those whose ideas and ideologies define the landscapes of modernity, we regard "culture" as those processes that play a role in cultivating the notion of a collective.  Culture describes the many practices that enable and expand, but also regulate and confine the self-fashioning of groups. Culture has multiple histories and ideologies:  it is simultaneously fluid and inert, consensual and contested, produced by those within the nation's boundaries and without, by those opposed to the state and aligned with it, in dialogue with and in diatribe against the structures of power.   Our notion of "culture" encompasses the multiplicity of Indias behind the putative new global identity. 

In short, our research and discussions ask what explains the form that India’s identity has taken and how it is projected and translated in different parts of the world, including in the United States.

In the last quarter century, modern India has defined much intellectual life in the US academy.  From the innovations of the Subaltern School of historians to the work of postcolonial critics, insights from India's colonial encounter have already profoundly influenced the manner in which disciplines such as history, anthropology, literature, geography, politics, philosophy, and sociology pursue their enterprises. Terms such as "agency," "culture," "power," and "subaltern," have been redefined by work in and around India, bringing with them new intellectual vistas.  Much of this work has focused almost exclusively on India's colonial past and its postcolonial aftermath.  Our forum is an effort to redefine the study of India by recognizing that today's India is qualitatively reshaping itself and its environs by exporting new cultural and economic commodities that shape the world beyond.

The New India Forum is an ongoing faculty research seminar structured around presentation of original research from a broadly humanistic perspective using widely interdisciplinary approaches.  Our goal is not to pursue a narrow area-studies agenda, but rather to examine the recent unfolding of one of the most exciting stories in the global economy in the context of broader scholarship at Temple and beyond.  

 

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