On the 23rd of March, 2021, the Sociology and Social Work Association organized the fourth lecture of the Annual Sociology Lecture Series, on ‘Vernacular Feminism’. The lecture was delivered by Dr J. Devika. Ananya Sunil Nair introduced and greeted the participants into the meeting. She then introduced Dr J. Devika, a Feminist researcher and Professor at the Centre of Developmental Studies in Kerala. She is also a translator of literature and social science writing in both Malayalam and English and has started a website displaying a few of the earliest writings on feminism in Kerala.
Dr Devika began the session by explaining in detail what ‘Vernacular’ really means. Vernacular is a word used in a pejorative sense, according to her it was in some way the colonial thinking which divided language into English and vernacular. The main topic of discussion during the session was the meaning of ‘Vernacular feminism’. Dr Devika successfully explained this concept, providing solid instances and highlighting the subtleties of the concept. Vernacular feminism often emphasizes the importance of everyday forms of language idiom and this has been particularly strong in media studies and cultural studies. To explain this point, Dr Devika elaborated on some of the advertisements presented in the Indian media, especially in Kerala, which tries to include feminism but fails with the consumer interpretation. Dr Devika argued that it is important to follow vernacular feminism even if you do not agree with a lot of what happens in those debates or arguments. People often think language has one primary layer whereas it is not, in every language, there are certain layers and it has the ability to translate feminism into other layers of language.
Dr Devika argued that there are two modes of translating particular political ideas including feminism, and one of them is a faithful mode where you aim for a one-to-one correspondent and the second mode is called grounded translation. Grounded translation involves picking an idea derived from a modern critical possibility is chosen and then they are explained in a local area in which it helps serve the local. She further talked about how the feminist theory was being absorbed into everyday articulations in very intriguing ways. Towards the end of the session, Dr Devika encouraged the participants to ask questions and answered them very briefly with valid points. While answering the questions she highlighted the importance of feminists to consciously make an effort to change the local words to bring in a new lens of understanding in the society. As the session came to an end, the students expressed their immense gratitude for having Dr Devika conduct the session and for introducing a topic that is very essential in today’s society.