Saturday, 6 August 2016

Class activities

 India: United in its Diversity

 The class of 4PSEco was given an opportunity by our sociology teacher, Dr. Sheila Mathews, to conduct panel discussions on various topics related to our syllabus throughout the semester. It helped us create an immense pool of knowledge while bringing out our creative sides. Our main theme was the pluralistic nature of the Indian society. The reader will noticed that in the reviews below, this is clearly highlighted through the various aspects that the panels brought out under each sub-topic. It gave us a fresh perspective as to how India has such diverse and unique identities within its geographical boundaries. The following is an overview of the panel discussions that were held.

1. India Untouched - Documentary review      
India Untouched is a documentary exposé on the modern sociopolitical and economic realities of caste and untouchability in India. The panel began by speaking about the various aspects of the documentary.  Some of the key aspects included the textual references to the laws of Manu, cross religious casteism and double dalit phenomenon.  The members of the panel gave their views on various aspects of the documentary from the political, referring to the participation of dalits in politics and  communist and dalit mobilization to social phenomenon such as exclusion from education and basic facilities and how even economic exclusion such as limitations on work and economic welfare are placed on the community.
The panel also raised questions on caste and its modern spectre in India.

2. Caste
The panel on caste was required to provide an insight on caste in India.  Rather than focusing on the sociopolitical realities of caste, as was already done by the panel on the documentary India Untouched, this panel sought to bring to light the various aspects of caste: definition, occupation, structure, stricture, forms and nature.  The basis of the panel’s central topics were textual and historical evidences, rules and sources known to be the base of the modern phenomenon of caste called Jati.  This was followed by studies in caste and a short modern history of caste, cross religious casteism and reservation. The main highlight of the panel was caste pluralism and how caste even today seems to undergo expansion.

3. Tribes
India is a diverse nation compiling of a multitude of lives. Struggling amidst all this is a community as old as time, fighting to not loose themselves. This panel focused on what it takes to preserve their identity in a country as pluralistic as India. Various questions were addressed from various perspectives such as  The informed commoner, The Historian, The Scholar, Representatives from tribes, The Capitalist, The Member of a Pressure Group, And a Student of sociology.
4. Race
Along with outlining the various racial types - Dravidian, Alpo-dinarian, Australoid, Negrito, Mongaloid and Aryan - tracing their origins, physical features, and other traits, the panel also brought out the similarities and differences between the racial theories of prominent sociologists and anthropologists such as Herbert Hope Risley, John Henry Hutton and B.S.Guha.
5. Rural Urban
            The panel presented on rural and urban India and occupations with respect to the Pluralistic nature of Indian Society. They spoke about the characteristics of rural and urban India and how they lie in a continuum. They also covered the variety of occupations in the Indian context and how they've changed over the years.
6. Religion
            Due to the vastness and significance of this topic, it was presented by two panels of 11 members each. The following is a gist of what they covered:
Religion in India is characterized by a diversity of religious beliefs and practices. The Indian subcontinent is the birthplace of some of the world's major religions: namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
In 'modern' period new religions were also established in India, such as Sikhism, Zoroastrianism and Judaism, Islam and Christianity. There are also some tribal communities who demand to be recognized as separate religion from Hinduism .Although they pre- dominantly follow major religious traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and/or Christianity.
7. Language
            The panel’s topic for discussion was Languages in India. In keeping the theme of these panels, “Pluralism in India”, we focused on the following aspects of Indian Languages:
·         Language as the identity of a culture
·         Evolution of Scripts
·         Families of Languages:
·         Indo Aryan
·         Dravidian
·         Austroasiatic
·         Sino Tibetan
·         Tai Kadai
·         Great Andamanese.
·         Dialects
·         Linguistic Division of States
·         Official Languages
·         Endangered and Extinct languages
The above mentioned topics give a very holistic view and also prove the plurality that exists in every aspect of the Indian society and culture and the topics are an evidence of it.

8. Kinship, Family and Marriage
            The panel discussed the mentioned topics in great detail, as it forms an essential part of the social life. These topics were clubbed together as they are interlinked and each component forms the larger picture. Under kinship, Irawati Karwe’s book, along with the division in the 4 regions and the types of kinship were covered. The panelists covered the functions of family, changing patterns of family in India, the types of family and previously conducted studies on family by famous sociologists. Types, characteristics, rules and various practices in different parts of the country were the topics covered under marriage.

9. Castes of Mind:
The panel on Castes of mind by Nicholas Dirks was both a summary and view based evaluation of Nicholas Dirks' magnum opus on caste in India, presented to us by Atreya Arun and Supriya Rangarajan.  The panelists divided the book in order of parts speaking of the fours parts in numerical order.  The first two parts spoke of the invention of caste and colonial archive and Nicholas Dirks’ main theory of how formalization of caste through cultural technologies literature and undue focus gave way to its rise in prominence and master status nature in modern India. It also spoke of the works and role of Orientalist administrators and missionaries in this process. The next two parts speak of the ethnographic state, policing criminalization and conversion of caste, tradition and law to create an enumerated rigid hierarchy and structure for caste. It then goes on to expand on modern caste community and polity in India from reformers like Dr. B.R. Ambedkar to movements and modern politics and the post-colonial predicament in India.
These presentations were an eye opener as well as a great learning experience. We understood in the truest sense what being so diverse really meant. In a pluralistic society like India, where people respect each other, where there is opportunity for a free flow of ideas, a meeting of minds, this alone can generate an atmosphere conducive to national growth and integration. These panels went beyond their guidelines given. We truly commend this wonderful job. 

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