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Talking the Political Culturally and Other Essays
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Talking the Political Culturally and Other Essays
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About the Author

In his new selection of essays, G P Deshpande explores the intricate ramifications of the politics of culture through a wide range of historical reference, discourses and texts, drawing on Chinese literature, the Buddhist and Bhakti traditions, philophical discourse in modern Marathi, the Natyashastra and the Amara Kosha, the author's recent visit to Pakistan, the progressive cultural movement in India, and the challenges that it faces today from the point of view of a cultural activist.

Govind Purushottam Deshpande (1938), better known as GPD, or Go Pu to his many admirers and friends, is a well known Marxist intellectual, scholar and playwright, and recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1996). He has been Professor and Dean of Chinese Studies at the Scholl of International Studies and Chairman of the Centre for East Asian Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru Universtiy, New Delhi.

Widely known for his play Uddwasta Dharmashala (A Man in Dark Times), Ek Vazoon Gela Ahe (Past One O'Clock), Andhar Yatra (A Passage to Darkness), Chanakya Vishugupta and Satyashodhak (On the life of Jotirao Phule), he has edited the authoritative anthology of Modern Indian Drama for the Sahitya Akademi (2000), and the Selected writings of Jotirao Phule (2002), He is a regular columnist in the Econimics and Political Weekly.

Preface

It was in the year 2006 that the first collection of my essays, commentaries and texts of several of my lectures and addresses was published by Seagull Books, Kolkata. The pieces in this collection were composed in the years since. The essay on Chinese Literature was composed many years ago. It was carried in the China Report and I forgot about it or nearly so. It is revived here now. It makes a political point as would be readily clear, one hopes.

Indian languages with few exceptions like Tamil or Kannada belong to the medieval period. They are not ancient. This means that they have little Sanskrit or-for that matter-Pali influences. The cultural ethos of our languages is thus medieval, in the main nourished by the Bhakti poetry. Ancient India affords them a repertoire of ideas. But it is not their life force. Indian Aesthetics, therefore, cannot depend exclusively upon ancient tradition. Likewise it cannot be an exclusive Brahmanical tradition. The ideas of the Bhakti tradition as also ideas from far away traditions like Grammar, etymology will have to be thought about.

This has not happened because the orientalist perspective has limited our view to the Sanskrit tradition. I am not suggesting that it has to be rejected. But it is true that the journey of Indian Aesthetics cannot be circumscribed by Rasa Siddhanta and Aristotle or the categories of modernism or postmodernism. The important thing is to first recognize our medievalism and the oeuvre available in the post-Sanskrit/Pali period of our literary history. We have merrily discussed aesthetic ideas without reference to the aesthetic practice in our languages. It has been a movement from one classical to another classical!

These writings reject that position as an 'all theory, no praxis' position. They constitute a statement of an unashamed medievalist. To assert 'Give me my Tukaram, Kalidasa can wait’ (so can many others) is the need of the hour. Otherwise it would be a blind man's walk into the western heaths and the Aranyas (deep forests) of the classical Indian aesthetic theory. It is necessary to look at the debates in the classical grammatical thought and so on. In short the sources so far tapped for the aesthetic thought in our country have not been adequate. This writings originate in that kind of weltanschauung. I can that the concerns stated above emerge in the musings offered here.

Many friends are responsible for making me write and speak. It is obvious that they do not necessarily share my views. Many of them even disapprove some of the positions and remarks. But they have been kind in their insistence that these pieces come out in book form. But it would not be right if I did not mention that Samik Bandyopadhyay has taken interest in putting this book together. I am grateful to him and all other friends who made this collection possible.

CONTENTS

1 Talking the Political Culturally: notes for a cultural activist 1
2 Literary Cultures in History: divided against themselves? 13
3 The Classical and the Colonial: a few tentative reflections 19
4 Of Progress and the Progressive Cultural Movement 24
5 Chinese Literature: An Introductory Essay 40
6 Pakistan Diary 74
7 Philosophical Discourse in Modern Marathi 82
8 Metaphysics and Protest in Modern Indian Discourse on Buddhism 99
9 Text, Author and Aesthetics 106
10 Violence of Culture: Three Cases 117








Talking the Political Culturally and Other Essays

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2009
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140
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About the Author

In his new selection of essays, G P Deshpande explores the intricate ramifications of the politics of culture through a wide range of historical reference, discourses and texts, drawing on Chinese literature, the Buddhist and Bhakti traditions, philophical discourse in modern Marathi, the Natyashastra and the Amara Kosha, the author's recent visit to Pakistan, the progressive cultural movement in India, and the challenges that it faces today from the point of view of a cultural activist.

Govind Purushottam Deshpande (1938), better known as GPD, or Go Pu to his many admirers and friends, is a well known Marxist intellectual, scholar and playwright, and recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1996). He has been Professor and Dean of Chinese Studies at the Scholl of International Studies and Chairman of the Centre for East Asian Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru Universtiy, New Delhi.

Widely known for his play Uddwasta Dharmashala (A Man in Dark Times), Ek Vazoon Gela Ahe (Past One O'Clock), Andhar Yatra (A Passage to Darkness), Chanakya Vishugupta and Satyashodhak (On the life of Jotirao Phule), he has edited the authoritative anthology of Modern Indian Drama for the Sahitya Akademi (2000), and the Selected writings of Jotirao Phule (2002), He is a regular columnist in the Econimics and Political Weekly.

Preface

It was in the year 2006 that the first collection of my essays, commentaries and texts of several of my lectures and addresses was published by Seagull Books, Kolkata. The pieces in this collection were composed in the years since. The essay on Chinese Literature was composed many years ago. It was carried in the China Report and I forgot about it or nearly so. It is revived here now. It makes a political point as would be readily clear, one hopes.

Indian languages with few exceptions like Tamil or Kannada belong to the medieval period. They are not ancient. This means that they have little Sanskrit or-for that matter-Pali influences. The cultural ethos of our languages is thus medieval, in the main nourished by the Bhakti poetry. Ancient India affords them a repertoire of ideas. But it is not their life force. Indian Aesthetics, therefore, cannot depend exclusively upon ancient tradition. Likewise it cannot be an exclusive Brahmanical tradition. The ideas of the Bhakti tradition as also ideas from far away traditions like Grammar, etymology will have to be thought about.

This has not happened because the orientalist perspective has limited our view to the Sanskrit tradition. I am not suggesting that it has to be rejected. But it is true that the journey of Indian Aesthetics cannot be circumscribed by Rasa Siddhanta and Aristotle or the categories of modernism or postmodernism. The important thing is to first recognize our medievalism and the oeuvre available in the post-Sanskrit/Pali period of our literary history. We have merrily discussed aesthetic ideas without reference to the aesthetic practice in our languages. It has been a movement from one classical to another classical!

These writings reject that position as an 'all theory, no praxis' position. They constitute a statement of an unashamed medievalist. To assert 'Give me my Tukaram, Kalidasa can wait’ (so can many others) is the need of the hour. Otherwise it would be a blind man's walk into the western heaths and the Aranyas (deep forests) of the classical Indian aesthetic theory. It is necessary to look at the debates in the classical grammatical thought and so on. In short the sources so far tapped for the aesthetic thought in our country have not been adequate. This writings originate in that kind of weltanschauung. I can that the concerns stated above emerge in the musings offered here.

Many friends are responsible for making me write and speak. It is obvious that they do not necessarily share my views. Many of them even disapprove some of the positions and remarks. But they have been kind in their insistence that these pieces come out in book form. But it would not be right if I did not mention that Samik Bandyopadhyay has taken interest in putting this book together. I am grateful to him and all other friends who made this collection possible.

CONTENTS

1 Talking the Political Culturally: notes for a cultural activist 1
2 Literary Cultures in History: divided against themselves? 13
3 The Classical and the Colonial: a few tentative reflections 19
4 Of Progress and the Progressive Cultural Movement 24
5 Chinese Literature: An Introductory Essay 40
6 Pakistan Diary 74
7 Philosophical Discourse in Modern Marathi 82
8 Metaphysics and Protest in Modern Indian Discourse on Buddhism 99
9 Text, Author and Aesthetics 106
10 Violence of Culture: Three Cases 117








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